American Design 15 September 2016

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Irving Harper


paper and wood construction
9¼ h x 30 w x 21 d in (23 x 76 x 53 cm)

result: $768

estimate: $1,000–1,500

provenance: Estate of Irving Harper

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Irving Harper

Selections from the Estate

When Irving Harper, director of design at George Nelson & Associates, died in August 2015 at ninety-nine, he was remembered not only as one of the unsung designers who created some of the most iconic twentieth-century American designs, like the 1949 Atomic Ball Clock, the Herman Miller logo, and the 1956 Marshmallow Sofa, but also for his work as an innovative and original paper artist. Attention to his work came first in 2001 when he graced the cover of Metropolis magazine, followed by a book, Irving Harper: Works in Paper (Rizzoli, 2013), and most recently, in a 2014 exhibition of seventy-seven of his intricate paper sculptures at the Rye Arts Center Gallery. 

Over the space of almost four decades, he created more than 300 abstract geometric works and sculptures filling almost every surface of his 3-story 19th century farmhouse and barn in Rye, New York with models of imaginary buildings, surreal animals, Picasso-esque figures, and African inspired masks made of paper. 

Irving Harper never sold any of the pieces, only rarely trading them for artworks. He explained, “I like to have them around. They constitute my environment and I don’t want to deprive myself of them.” 

In January, 2016 Wright hosted the first sale of his work, Irving Harper Paper Sculptures. The following lots are from his estate.