We mentioned in earlier blogs dated 11-28-07 and 1-25-08, that the famed Palm Springs Kaufmann House, known as a “masterpiece of modernism”, would be sold on May 13 at a high profile auction at Christie’s in New York City. The house did sell last night – for $15 million, as a piece of fine art – not as a piece of real estate, along with other postwar and contemporary art works, including paintings by Mark Rothko, Lucien Freud, and Francis Bacon.
The Kaufmann House is linked to Fallingwater in Pennsylvania by the fact that Edgar J. Kaufmann, magnate of the Pittsburgh department store bearing his name, commissioned both houses, about ten years apart. Fallingwater was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Palm Springs house by Richard Neutra. Palm Springs’ Kaufmann House, as it has come to be known, was intended as a desert retreat from the cold winter weather of Pennsylvania. The home was later owned by various notables such as Barry Manilow, and Eugene V. Klein – a one time owner of the San Diego Chargers.
Christie’s pre-sale estimate for the house was in a range of $15 million to $25 million. A NYT reporter wrote that the house “was snapped up for a record price”. She went on to say that considering the fact that a painting sold last night for more than $50 million, our “Modernist landmark . . . was a veritable bargain”. Rarely have Modernist homes been sold at auction, although she does cite two such architecturally important offerings over the years – Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, and Philip Johnson’s 1950 town house on East 52nd Street which he designed for one of the Rockefeller family.
While Christie’s president in America, Marc Porter, did not reveal the name of the buyer, he did offer this interesting tidbit. The buyer “exercised an option to purchase an orchard adjacent to the property for an additional $2.1 million that includes three cacti that were a present from Frank Lloyd Wright to Mr. Kaufmann on his first visit to the home.”
To read the New York Times article in full, go to At Christie’s, Bidding Is Strong for Even a House.