Florence Knoll’s Personal Art Collection Heads to Auction This Fall
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Florence Knoll’s Personal Art Collection Heads to Auction This Fall

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By Duncan Nielsen
The collection includes works by world-renowned artists including Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Louise Nevelson, and Josef Albers.

It’s hard to talk about the history of design without mentioning Florence Knoll, who passed earlier this year at the age of 101. She trained with the greats—Saarinen, Mies van der Rohe, and Noguchi, to name a few—and her enduring work transformed the postwar American office and interiors everywhere.

Florence Knoll poses with a model during a meeting of the Knoll Planning Unit.

In the office of Harry Hood Bassett at the First National Bank in Miami, Homage to the Square Silent Gray by Josef Albers hangs behind a rich display of Knoll’s designs.

The approach she developed naturally matched her steadfast and grounded daily routines. A 1964 article from the Times reports that her lunches were kept to 30 minutes each day, where she read only histories or biographies. "I'm interested only in things that are real," she told them.

But her expansive art collection—to be sold on October 25 and November 14 by the international auction company Phillips—shows an appreciation of both tangible and abstract ideas alike. A funky, hand-painted vase by Picasso wears an affable, goofy smile, and Louise Nevelson’s Six Pointed Star juts and triangulates haphazardly.

Six Pointed Star by Louise Nevelson

Pablo Picasso’s Qautre Visages vase bears a two-tone finish and a hand-painted aesthetic.

The collection, mostly accumulated between the ’40s and mid-1970s, followed her to each New York home and then to Florida, when she married Miami banker Harry Hood Bassett. She bought from both galleries and artist friends, and never traded or sold any of the works.

Der Exkaiser by Paul Klee

Singing, by Morris Louis, is a muted rainbow of nearly rectilinear columns.

Since 1786, Phillips has sold collections from distinguished persons that include Marie Antoinette and Napoleon Bonaparte. The world will now get a peek at Knoll’s personal collection as it’s revealed for the first time.

Related Reading:

Modernist Master Florence Knoll Dies at 101

Knoll Gets in Touch With Its Bauhaus Roots

Homage to the Square Silent Gray by Josef Albers

Small Wonder by Isamu Noguchi

Geometric face by Pablo Picasso

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