The auction house Sotheby’s in New York has informed us that they’ve decided to remove from Wednesday’s important 20th century design auction a desk and chair designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright for the S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building in Racine, Wisconsin that were the sale’s featured items. Last week, the auction house had been sued by the maker of Windex and Pledge who sought the removal of the items from the sale claiming the desk and chair had been stolen. As per the complaint, though the plaintiffs keep meticulous records of sales and loans to museums, they didn’t have records of any sale or gift of the desk and the chair as indicated in the provenance in the Sotheby’s catalogue. The desk (lot 147) and chair (lot 148) were estimated to bring in up to $600,000 and $120,000, respectively. The items have been removed pending a conditional private sale whereby Sotheby’s will maintain possession of the items until there’s been a resolution of the litigation.
This isn’t the first time that S.C. Johnson has tried to stop an auction over furniture designed for the building in Racine that was allegedly stolen. In 2008, when an employee at S.C. Johnson spotted a similar chair for sale on eBay, the company tried to stop the sale from going forward. That time, however, they weren’t successful as no evidence of theft turned up in the investigation.
Sotheby’s declined to comment further and S.C. Johnson could not be reached immediately for comment.
— Rozalia Jovanovic
(Image: An Important and Rare Desk from the S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building, Racine, Wisconsin. Courtesy Sotheby’s.)