The auction company Wright's preview for the upcoming (July 26) Four Seasons Restaurant auction was held today and The Architect’s Newspaper went along to see what was on offer. (You can recap our full coverage of the controversy surrounding the auction here.) Mixed in among the innumerable ladles, serving trays, wine glasses, and ashtrays was a selection of beautiful small Saarinen Tulip Tables ($5000-7000) and Stools ($500-700), Mies van der Rohe Brno Chairs ($3000-8000), seasonally patterned ash trays ($500-700), and several one-off pieces of servingware designed by Philip Johnson and Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable. There are scores of beautiful breadbaskets with little bent metal feet ($1000-1,500), caviar bowls ($1000-1500), and oyster dishes ($600-800). The most unique objects are a unique (Wright claims) Zabaglione server ($200-300), Johnson-designed lights from the pool room ($5000-7000), and a bright red sausage grinder ($200-300). The objects that are most poignantly close to the Four Seasons Restaurant's history are its brass signs designed by Emil Antonucci ($5000-7000). You can view all the lots on Wright's website. But what happened to the large metal domes that used to cover all the dishes coming from the kitchen?
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As developer Aby Rosen pushes through changes at the iconic Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building on Manhattan's Park Avenue, preservationists are lamenting what could be the loss of one of the great Modernist public spaces since 1959. Rosen has already gotten rid of the Picasso tapestry in the lobby, and now the restauranteur duo of the Four Seasons are auctioning off the Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson-designed furniture. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has stood its ground on some of the permanent interior features, but Rosen continues to push for changes. The Four Seasons will move to 280 Park Avenue and reopen for business on Monday, August 1. At the current Four Seasons location, Rosen has enlisted Major Food Group, the gurus behind spots like Carbone, Dirty French, Parm, and Parm Yankee Stadium. In the face of drastic changes, DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State will be honoring Phyllis Lambert on June 15 at A Modern Affair, which is quite possibly the last event being held by an architecture or preservation organization before the restaurant closes. The evening will honor Lambert, whose vision enabled the creation of this landmark interior space. She is the author of Building Seagram. Elizabeth Diller will be making introductory remarks, as her practice, Diller + Scofidio, designed the Brasserie Restaurant in the Seagram Building. Tickets are available here.
EXCLUSIVE: Phyllis Lambert responds to the planned auction of the Four Seasons Restaurant furniture and décor
The Architect's Newspaper published Public Preview to Precede Auction of Four Seasons Restaurant Furniture and Décor on April 27 as a “fire sale” blog. This story reported on the sale and auction of the furniture and fittings of the legendary Four Seasons restaurant by the building’s current owner Aby Rosen. In response to the planned destruction of the restaurant—certainly the grandest modernist restaurant design in the world—Phyllis Lambert, who was the client and driving force behind the restaurant, sent us an open letter to Rosen. Here is that letter: To Aby I am writing a plea to you concerning what is still the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building. My plea is to keep in place the furniture designed by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, and therefore to maintain the authenticity of two of the world’s greatest rooms. Great public places are very rarely created. Their presence, unchanged, maintains continuity of place and of ritual, which is socially and spiritually essential in all societies. You are in the very enviable position as heir to such a place. Here, within an established tradition of greatness, you can choose the restaurateur and the programs. At the same time, you are installing a new restaurant in the new building you have commissioned that is now in construction immediately adjacent to the Seagram Building at 100 East 53rd Street. There you can invent the very atmosphere you wish to have. You have the extraordinary chance in 2017, and another generation, of emulating the superb quality of Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson’s rooms. Great rooms by architects from Michelangelo to Robert Adam, Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier, and Mies are gesamtkunstwerk, an all-embracing art that includes every aspect of the interior and the exterior architecture. As heir to the Four Seasons Restaurant designed by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, my plea to you is to accept the very generous offer of its owners to acquire the furniture (they own it) at less than replacement cost. The nature of the food can change, as it has in such great restaurants as the Grand Véfour in Paris, renowned for over two hundred years for the tradition of its unchanged décor and its gastronomy. After having responded with a ludicrous price when offered to acquire the Four Season’s name, and having the great Picasso curtain removed from the travertine passage linking the bar-grill and the pool rooms, you still have the opportunity to maintain the character and reinforce the tradition of this extraordinary place. A decision to acquire the furniture will secure you a place in the annals of history. —Phyllis Lambert
Today new details were announced on the fate of iconic The Four Seasons Restaurant's interior, including the auction house and certain pieces that will be sold. The Four Seasons was opened in 1959 and is located within the Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson-designed Seagram Building. Mies and Johnson also designed the restaurant's interior, which was designated an interior landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. While the restaurant has been a staple of New York City's high-end social scene, the building's owner—Aby Rosen and his company, RFR Holding—last summer announced they would not renew The Four Season's lease. The restaurant, which is separately owned by Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder, will close at its current location on July 16 and move to a location nearby. While it's been known that Niccolini and von Bidder would sell off the restaurant's original furniture and decor, it was announced today that the auction house Wright would be conducting the auction on July 26. "The auction will be live on-site, and open to the public," said a public relations agency representing Wright. "From July 20-26, there will be a public preview at The Four Seasons Restaurant." The furniture includes designs by Mies and, according to the New York Times, "Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable...designed the table settings and some of the furniture" as well. The press representative informed us the sale will include:
- The Grill Room’s banquettes
- All furniture including the original suite of Barcelona seating from the travertine lobby
- Custom Tulip tables with polished bronze tops
- Groups of custom Brno chairs
- Objects such as custom wine coolers, planters, serving carts, and bespoke pots and pans
New York City's iconic Four Seasons Restaurant inside the Seagram Building is at the center of a renovation dispute
Traditionalists went into a tailspin over proposed modifications to the landmark Four Seasons Restaurant, a gastronomic and architectural emblem of New York City housed in the historic Seagram Building. The high-ceilinged enclave, clad with French walnut walls, plays daily host to high society a big business in Midtown Manhattan. The eatery garnered landmark status in 1989 for the building’s architectural prowess. Nevertheless, the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) cautions that this designation does not shield the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs, Florence Knoll banquettes, Eero Saarinen cocktail tables, and table settings by L. Garth Huxtable. Building owner and noted art collector Aby Rosen of RFR Holdings recently filed plans to make changes to the restaurant, reportedly without consulting owners Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder. While the LPC approved the proposed new carpeting without qualm, they balked at a removal of the cracked-glass and bronze partitions separating the dining area and bar. Originally installed by legendary architect Philip Johnson, who designed the space with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1959, the partitions would be replaced by movable ivy planters to open up the space. Selldorf Architects is also considering nixing the large walnut panels separating the square-shaped 60-foot-by-60-foot Pool Room from the dining room on the mezzanine. These will be replaced with five panels, the outer two of which would be operable for reconfiguration of the space. According to Rosen, this would improve the flow between the mezzanine and the Pool Room without the upper tier framing the space. “This landmark is elevated to a level where any kind of intervention would not be living with preservation,” objected LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan. Conservationists bristled last year when Rosen entertained an eviction of the Le Tricorne Picasso tapestry hanging inside the restaurant in order to facilitate reparations to the wall behind it, where a “potentially serious steam leak” from the two-story kitchen had purportedly crippled the structure. The preservation commission retorted that removal of the tapestry would cause it to “crack like a potato chip.” A New York State judge issued an injunction prohibiting Seagram from removing the painting, but Rosen, a real estate developer and avid collector of post-war art, is in conservationists’ crossfire again for daring to alter a landmark. “These are features that are integral to the sense of space. Not just decorative but have architectural meaning and value,” said Commissioner Diana Chapin. Edgar Bronfman Jr., whose family owned Seagram, claimed that RFR’s proposal displays “utter contempt” for the icon. RFR representative Sheldon Werdiger maintains that the changes are restorative rather than invasive. “We’re not making changes as much as we’re restoring. Our local press is trying to make it into a controversial situation,” he told Arch Record.