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The origins of Design and Auction Houses

The profession of industrial designer was forged throughout the 20th Century and the act of projecting objects considered as ergonomic, appropriate and beautiful has upgraded to almost myths a number of people who devised some of the most representative icons of the last Century, which are considered the origins of design and make them be present in auction houses nowadays.

At the beginning, designers used to be advanced architects, who did not find, among the usual objects sold in shops or designed by some artists, appropriate items for the interiors they built. We can imagine architects of the Art Nouveau period such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos or Antoni Gaudí, who, due to the originality of their construction proposals, could not find furniture or lighting elements that matched their interiors, so they chose to create an array of very interesting objects, which pioneered the design concept that was being forged.

Design in auctions

Obviously, they needed skilled craftsmen with knowledge about materials to create their inventive ideas; however, throughout the Century, it was the industry which shaped and produced the inventions by designers. This also means that the role of producers and editions of objects that can be traded or sold at auction are more appreciated and valued if they are endorsed by better editions and closer to their date of creation. Anyway, the balance between the quality of a designer piece (materials, finishings and conservation) and the specific interest of the edition must be in accordance with the sale price at auction.

The presence in the art market of original pieces by those and other pioneers is an event that arouses great interest, and such pieces have reached prices which are usually up to the circumstances, but later versions, made with good materials and good finishings, are much more affordable and also play a good role.

The great designers

Since the second decade of the 20th Century, the Bauhaus has represented a real revolution for the arts of the object, highlighting the simple beauty of lines and functionality. Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe was the most representative designer, and among the numerous models of furniture he left us, the most well-known is the famous Barcelona chair.

Marcel Breuer, inspired by the teachings of the Bauhaus, is another of the main names of the Century; with his chairs Cesca or Wasily, he left us some of the great distinctive icons. Continuing with the seating sector, we cannot forget other models of important creators, such as the chaise longue by Le Corbusier or the Lounge chair with ottoman by Charles and Ray Eames.

Today there is no doubt that those important American or European designers created models that have not lost their power of fascination among new generations.

Certainly, the 20th Century was key in the use of industrial materials and in the reinterpretation of traditional joinery, as Northern European designers (especially Danish and Finnish) did, such as Arne Jacobsen, Carl Hansen, Hans J. Wegner, Alvar Aalto, Eero Saarinen or Tapio Wirkala.

The arrival of post-modernity in the 80s succeeded with creators such as Philippe Starck, and innovations with Pop reminiscences were introduced by designers as Ettore Sottsas. In the 20th Century, not only furniture was reinterpreted: also lamps were; among them, stand out those by Max Ingrand and Paul Henningsen; or the art of glass, led by the Venini factory from Murano, which is a blend of design and renovation of traditional glassware.

The Spanish case

In this global environment of exceptional wealth, Balclis, a design auction house, is proud to contribute to disseminate Spanish design, mainly from Catalonia, with works by pioneers of the 60s and 70s such as André Ricard, Miquel Milà, Rafael Marquina and Pep Bonet. In the last quarter of the 20th Century, there were many renowned designers. Among them, we must refer to Óscar Tusquets, Jaume Tresserra, Ramón Benedito, Eduard Samsó, Pepe Cortés, Javier Mariscal, Pete Sans and the Blanc studio.

The national and international prestige of this sector is constantly growing, and designers base their work on a global conception of creation of new objects. Although many of the first-generation Spanish designers were self-taught or studied abroad, the quality of teaching in Spain has increasingly improved and design schools offer an ever more comprehensive training.


The national and international prestige of this sector is constantly growing, and designers base their work on a global conception of creation of new objects

Spanish industrial designers

In connection with the contributions of a large number of Spanish industrial designers, the Museum of Design in Barcelona carries out a very important task, preserving the best examples of the last 70 years, and analyses and studies the history of design and its current situation.

Among the Spanish designers of the latest generation we must refer to Miguel Ángel Ciganda, Martín Ruiz de Azúa, Óscar and Sergi Devesa, Pedro Miralles, ADN Design, Anna Mir, Emili Padrós, El Último Grito, Cactus Design or Jaime Hayón… as some of the most outstanding representatives. The expectation for the “antiques of the future” – i.e. design objects- is excellent, both for original pieces and for subsequent editions, which have become indispensable elements of today’s decoration.

Online auctions of furniture and design objects, such as those made at Balclis, are in line with contemporary trends of interior design, in which the combination of antique chests of drawers, tables, chairs or ceramic pieces and modern ceiling or table lamps, sofas, vases or carpets, offers a lively and interesting contrast.