284 Examples of Historic Decor Are Just the Start of Christie’s Next Jaw-Dropping Auction
Nearly 300 superb examples of decor—all of which hail from the New York home of Susan and John H. Gutfreund—would be more than enough to make Christie’s forthcoming auction a star attraction of its winter 2021 lineup. After all, the lots in question were astutely collected by the Francophile couple for their 834 Fifth Avenue residence, which was designed by French decorator Henri Samuel. (The home itself, which was known in part for its beautiful winter garden and architectural design by Rosario Candela, sold in 2019 for a striking sum.) However, in addition to this hotly anticipated virtual event, which will take place January 26–27, three smaller satellite sales kicked off this week. There’s one devoted to the types of tabletop wonders Mrs. Gutfreund used while entertaining, another that’s all about the pair’s extensive book collection, and last but certainly not least, an auction completely geared toward Chanel jewelry.
That jewelry—which includes everything from amphora-focused earrings to Byzantine-style Gripoux crosses—isn’t the result of simple shopping sprees but is instead a testament to Susan Gutfreund’s enduring friendship with Karl Lagerfeld. Not only would Gutfreund be in the Chanel showroom the night before a new collection made its runway debut but she would also be backstage on the day of the event. In these moments, Lagerfeld was quick to accessorize her too, pulling pieces from nearby trays of his latest fashion jewelry.
Gutfreund was also a frequent guest at Lagerfeld’s homes. “I used to go stay with him,” she explains to AD. “When you get to spend that time with someone like that, it’s very special.” Indeed. But Lagerfeld was also a notably thoughtful friend—surprising Gutfreund’s son with a humongous gingerbread house on one occasion, and personally dropping off a pair of topiaries she had mentioned admiring on another. And while the duo didn’t discuss fashion, they did share twin passions when it came to consummate collecting. “I had once bought a set of porcelain from a famous Italian family,” Gutfreund recalls, adding that she told Lagerfeld about at the time. “He looked at me stunned and said, ‘I was the underbidder!’”
Porcelain and bejeweled baubles aside, it’s still the hundreds of examples of furniture and decor that are the main attraction of this four-part event. A Diego Giacometti table is expected to fetch $80,000–120,000, while an Austrian Ormolu chandelier acquired from Gutfreund’s friend and fellow Francophile Jayne Wrightsman could bring in as much $60,000. More impressive still is a monumental George III Moorfields Carpet, which has an estimate of $100,000–150,000.
“We went across the street from Harry’s Bar in London to C. John,” Gutfreund says of the day she and her late husband encountered the epic piece. “[Mr. John] said, ‘Do you have the time to see something spectacular?’ And we said, ‘Sure.’” They followed the shop proprietor downstairs, where they were able to see part of the carpet. They ultimately purchased the piece, and when they moved into their Fifth Avenue home, took down a wall so that it could unfurl in its full, elongated splendor.
Reflecting more broadly, it’s clear that Gutfreund considers it an honor to have been able to live with such works. “It’s a wonderful privilege to have so many friends to influence me in terms of my taste, and wonderful dealers who would [teach me],” she says. And while each item included in the auctions is no doubt imbued with a memory, there’s more to it than that: “Each thing in the sale represents the hunt to find that perfect piece for that spot,” Gutfreund stresses. Now, the hunt is on for those looking to take some of those same things home.