Vitória Régia Stools

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Lots 127 and 152, Phillips de Pury & Company’s “Latin America” auction in New York, October 3, 2009: Two 2006 “Vitória Régia” stools—one 49 inches in diameter, the other 29 inches—by the Brazilian designers Fernando and Humberto Campana. The larger stool sold for $21,250, and the smaller for $16,250, off pre-auction estimates, respectively, of $8,000 to $12,000 and $5,000 to $7,000.
Some reasons for the unexpectedly high prices:

High Esteem
The most respected arbiters of taste in the field of contemporary design—including Museum of Modern Art curator Paola Antonelli, who gave the Campanas their first U.S. show, in 1998 in New York—place the brothers in the topmost rank of designers working today.

The Campanas are known for their playfulness and a sense of adventure—a spirit best captured, perhaps, in their series of “Banquete” chairs, which have seats made from dozens of stitched-together plush toys. Many love the chairs, others see them as, let’s say, an acquired taste.

…But not too Exuberant
Alex Heminway, modern design specialist for Phillips de Pury, says of the “Vitória Régia” stools: “You cannot be in a bad mood when you sit on or near these pieces.” That said, he adds the pieces “aren’t as cute and precious as the ‘Banquete’ chairs. The stools are energetic, but accessible.”

Superb Skills 
Asked to cite the most significant aspect of the Campana brothers’ work, Antonelli says: “They have reawakened the world of design to the idea of craftsmanship. No one else makes things the way they do.” Each piece is painstakingly fabricated at Estudio Campana, is signed, and comes with a certificate of authenticity.

Medium as Message 
As full of brio as the “Vitória Régia” stools are, Heminway points out that they also embody a political comment. “The brothers make them out of fabric remnants, bits of things like old tablecloths, and swatches of rubber,” he says. “They’re saying something about saying something about the value of the things we consider cast-offs.”

Brisk Bidding
The same three phone bidders battled for each of the stools, and in the end one of them, who is from Brazil, got both. Says Heminway: “I think it’s rather nice that the stools are going home.”