The Collection of Robert and Lisa Kessler
By Sara Blumberg
It is with great pleasure that we present the glass collection of Robert and Lisa Kessler of Colorado. Beginning in the early 1990s, the Kesslers turned their attention to the field of Murano glass and proceeded to build a collection filled with rare and unique examples from the 1930s to the 1960s and beyond. As experienced collectors of art and design, they began their adventure in glass by identifying the best dealers and auction houses in the world. The pair understood the importance of following their own aesthetic path while keeping pace with the then emerging Italian glass market.
This spectacular collection covers many decades and highlights include rare examples by Carlo Scarpa, Napoleone Martinuzzi, Paolo Venini, Fulvio Bianconi, Archimede Seguso and Thomas Stearns. One of the great joys of curating this auction has been the chance to handle pieces not seen since their first appearance— whether in early auctions or in small exhibitions and catalogues. From the landmark sales of the early 1990s at Stadion in Milan to the best dealers in Europe and New York, the Kesslers were committed to acquiring the finest and rarest examples possible while adhering to their love of objects rooted firmly in the history of art and design.
The Kesslers were committed to acquiring the finest and rarest examples possible while adhering to their love of objects rooted firmly in the history of art and design.
Robert and Lisa Kessler are true collectors and their interests are as far reaching as they are deep. Well-known as connoisseurs of Southeast Asian bronzes and Chinese paintings and scrolls, perhaps their greatest passion is reserved for contemporary Japanese ceramics. One of the true pleasures of touring the Kessler’s various collections was recognizing their passion for art of all periods and origins expressed in sculptural form. It was therefore fascinating to note that most of their Murano glass pieces were chosen for their shapes and techniques as opposed to the transparency generally associated with glass. It is certainly no coincidence that the collection offers so many examples by Carlo Scarpa, whose love of Asian art and history is well known—this fascination is magnificently represented in his work as both a glass designer and architect. Scarpa’s work for MVM Cappellin and later for Venini perfectly expresses his desire to explore the medium of glass in new and dynamic ways by honoring the connection between surface (techniques often of his own invention) and form.
The Kessler glass collection is unique in many ways. With keen attention to new applications of ancient techniques, the choices made allow one to trace the most forward thinking efforts on the island of Murano during the 20th century.
The Kessler glass collection is unique in many ways. With keen attention to new applications of ancient techniques, the choices made allow one to trace the most forward thinking efforts on the island of Murano during the 20th century. From delicate Fenicio vases to Bollicine and Pulegoso vessels of the 1930s, one recognizes the intention to redefine the medium and move away from the tradition of transparency. The Postwar period brings more invention, this time a reaction to and reflection of world art expressed through the complex use of canes and internal abstract decoration thus reimagining the vessel as a three dimensional canvas. Yoshi Ohira’s inventive works in glass from the 1990s provide the culmination of this sensational collection and reinforce the thread of experimentation connecting all great art and design.
Japanese-born Yoichi Ohira’s distinctive stylistic blend inspired by the natural beauty of Japan and traditional Italian glass techniques brands him a major contributor to the narrative of 20th century glass design. In 1969, Ohira graduated from the Kuwasawa Design School in Tokyo and completed an apprenticeship in glassblowing at the Kagami Crystal Company, Ltd. Shortly thereafter, he began working in the fashion industry which directly influenced the balance, elegant shape, and multicolored decorative schemes of his work. From 1973–1978, while studying at the Venice Academy of Fine Arts, his love and talent for Murano glass grew earning him high honors for his thesis The Aesthetics of Glass. In the late 1980s, Ohira began collaborating with Murano master glassmakers and was awarded the Premio Selezione of the Premio Murano in 1987.
Ohira’s work is present in the world’s major collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. He has been exhibited internationally including the Correr Museum in Venice, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and Barry Friedman Gallery in New York. Yoichi Ohira lives and works in Tokyo.
Auction Results Yoichi Ohira