Bernard Davis and the Miami Museum of Modern Art
The present lot is one of numerous works Harvey Probber acquired through Bernard Davis and the Miami Museum of Modern Art. Davis, an eccentric millionaire from Philadelphia, originally a textile manufacturer, ran the gallery from 1959-1973 introducing artists such as Purvis Young, Dorothy Gillespie, Ossip Zadkine and Chaim Soutine. Not only did Davis provide a venue for showing artist works, he also educated collectors as a prolific publisher of catalogs, brochures and pamphlets heralding unknown artists from Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Read more about Davis in an oral history interview with collectors, Ruth and Richard Shack in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art starting on page 5.
Works from the
Collection of Harvey Probber
As an accomplished designer, innovator, and entrepreneur, Harvey Probber led a life guided by creative interests. From a young age, he explored the formal qualities of furnishings and their role in interior environments leading him to a successful career in design, manufacturing, and distribution. Probber developed an original, award-winning style that fits seamlessly into interiors across the country. One of his greatest contributions to the canon of design was the concept of “modular furniture”; an idea he coined that is so commonplace today that it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t always a part of the field’s vernacular.
Probber’s design ideology was undoubtedly modern, but also revered historical and cultural events that preceded and happened alongside his work. In tune with the arts, Probber befriended artists such as Adolph Gottlieb and gallerists, such as Sam Kootz and Bernard Davis. He amassed a collection of European and American modern art that was displayed alongside his furniture in showrooms and catalogs, often inspiring his own work.
In 1962, Probber purchased Eastcliff, a Gothic Revival home originally designed in 1925 by Hobart Upjohn for J. Richard Ardrey, a prominent banker. Probber embarked upon the renovation and installation of art and design that transformed the stately home into a 16-room waterfront gallery for his collection of paintings and decorative objects. His furniture and that of his favorite designers provided comfort within the home’s interior composition.
Probber was well known in the world of design and beyond and it is hardly surprising that his social circle included musicians, stage and screen stars, artists, photographers, authors, and other accomplished people who regularly convened at Eastcliff.
Carter Ratcliff writes in a soon to be published manuscript dedicated to the life of Harvey Probber: “Probber saw that works of art do not live in a vacuum. They need settings, that a rapprochement between art and design could be a starting place in the endeavor to supply life with a sound foundation.”
A complete work of art and interior design, the Eastcliff residence captured Harvey Probber’s sophisticated and modern vision. It was the perfect backdrop for a life full of art and design.
The present collection of works comes out of the Eastcliff residence and directly from the Probber family. The selection of more than 60 lots is comprised of Probber designs, works by those he represented, and artworks he collected. Altogether, the auction provides a snapshot of Probber’s holistic creative sensibilities and his far-reaching influence on the field of design.
Wright would like to thank the Harvey Probber Archive for generously sharing period documentation, information and images, and Carter Ratcliff for allowing us access to his unpublished manuscript.