The most important collection of postwar Italian glass to ever be presented at auction comes to Wright. The sale is comprised of masterworks by Fulvio Bianconi, Paolo Venini, Thomas Stearns, Ercole Barovier and Dino Martens. 

From a Chicago couple, the collection of more than 100 works captures the innovation and spirit that defines postwar Murano glass. Built with passion and enthusiasm over the course of several decades, this remarkable collection presents a rare opportunity for both glass enthusiasts and design collectors. 

All lots will be on view in our New York gallery starting May 9th. The auction will occur in Chicago on May 23rd, 12 pm central.

Thomas Stearns Sentinella di Venezia $300,000–500,000

A masterwork of design by Thomas Stearns stands as the highlight of the collection. La Sentinella di Venezia, one of only two examples remaining, is a tour-de-force of imagination and expression, perfectly representing Stearns impact on the history of Murano glass. For two years, starting in 1960, Stearns worked at Venini challenging the glass maestros with his experimental and complex designs. Stearns teamed with the young and talented glass blower, “Checco” Ongarno, to create a small body of distinctly original glass works. La Sentinella di Venezia offered here, one from a series of three, was the culmination of his tenure at Venini. 
Learn more about Thomas Stearns

“Reluctantly closing the end of my two years at Venini, I was urged to foster one last token of my efforts—a salute—as well as an omen you might say—one’s own metaphysical format of delight and despair, smile and tears. As it were, the Sentinels of Venice were wed... a collective of fascination, wonderment, chagrin, piety, and apathy for my beloved acquired home, Venice.”

Thomas Stearns

Fulvio Bianconi Con Macchie Vase $90,000 – 120,000

A Private Chicago Collection

Americans in Venice

Works from the collection illustrated in situ. Photo by Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai
from the book Julius Shulman: Chicago Mid-Century Modernism

This exceptional private collection offers a rare and comprehensive view of Murano glass from the 1950s and 1960s. More specifically, it acts as a reflection of an American couple’s passion for the exuberant design and culture of the postwar period. Inherent in the objects they collect and admire, the modernist houses they respectfully inhabit and the art and music that inspire them, is a passion for the optimism expressed in the heady postwar years.

In the early 1990s, while touring Italy for both work and pleasure a chance encounter with a small guidebook led to a fortuitous visit to the Venini glassworks on the island of Murano. The guidebook suggested, in no uncertain terms, that tourists would benefit greatly if they bypassed the various glass factories and headed straight to Venini. The collection thus began, first with the purchase of several contemporary pieces, and then with a passion to learn about and collect works by the company’s most important designers of the 50s and 60s: Fulvio Bianconi, Paolo Venini, Tobia Scarpa, and the outsider cum tour de force, Thomas Stearns.

Ercole Barovier Intarsio Vase $30,000 – 40,000

Select Highlights from the Sale

Postwar Murano Glass, America and the Evolution of the Secondary Market

This collection is unique. Composed entirely of postwar Murano glass, it offers the rare opportunity to study a very specific historical period and body of work without distraction. To see the nearly encyclopedic progression of Fulvio Bianconi’s work for Venini present in this collection is a rare and dynamic experience. When combined as it is with the best examples of work by Ercole Barovier, Dino Martens and Thomas Stearns, a powerful vision of postwar Murano glass begins to emerge—the vivid colors and strong patterns influenced by American Abstract Expressionist painting, Op-Art and Madison Avenue allow us to feel the enthusiasm and optimism of the postwar years. The highly specific curation of this collection also allows us to examine the unique relationship between Murano glass and America. Finally, the history of the  secondary market for Murano glass is subtly embedded here. What follows is a brief exploration of these themes, and others, all present in this landmark collection.

The highly specific curation of this collection also allows us to examine the unique relationship between Murano glass and America.

During the first half of the 20th century, Murano glass could be described as an entirely European phenomenon. Presented at international exhibitions, works from Venini, Barovier and other major glassworks were specifically designed to appeal to an aesthetically progressive, culturally sophisticated European audience. Vases, bowls and sculptural objects were offered as tasteful accents for elegant modernist environments. These objects were, for the most part, made in relatively small numbers and presented as fine examples of the creative virtuosity of their companies, most of whom made their real income through the production of lighting for large architectural projects.

While postwar Murano glass shares much in common with prewar glass, its differences are due, in no small part, to the influence of America. Drawing inspiration from Abstract Expressionist painting, Op-Art and graphic design, the vivid colors and strong patterns of postwar Murano glass were fresh, lively, enthusiastic and appealed to a young and more diverse audience. A more daring use of experimental techniques, along with biomorphic and asymmetrical shapes, also became part of the postwar Murano glass oeuvre as designers began to reconsider the potential of the vessel as a work of art.

The auction will include a full-color catalog with original essays by Jim Oliveira and Sara Blumberg. Order your copy today! 

Dino Martens Geltrude Vase $30,000 – 40,000

Important Italian Glass:
A Private Chicago Collection

For more information about
the sale, please contact:

312 563 0020

Preview / New York 
9 – 23 May 2018
11 am – 5 pm Monday – Saturday

Auction / Chicago 
23 May 2018
12 pm central