Grand Design from Tom Watkins

12th September 2011

Music impresario Tom Watkins may be best known for having managed the Pet Shop Boys, Bros and East 17 in the '80s and '90s, but he is also a prolific fine art collector specialising in works from the Memphis Design Group. Other enthusiasts for modern design now have the opportunity to acquire part of his collection when selected items go to auction as part of the 20th Century Design sale on 21st September.

Tom Watkins studied at the London College of Furniture and worked for Terence Conran and several other big name designers before going into the music industry. Viewers of Channel 4's Grand Designs caught a glimpse of some of his remarkable art collection when the home he designed and built, The Big White House at Pett Level between Rye and Hastings, was featured in the show.

The items included in the auction were collected in the 1990s and early 2000s and reflect Watkins' interest in the Memphis Group. Memphis was a collective of young, ambitious furniture and product designers based in Italy and led by the already successful designer Ettore Sottsass. From 1981 Memphis products, with their radical use of finishes, shapes and humour, dominated European design. The auction includes a good example of Michelle De Lucchi's First chair and the classic baseball glove chair Joe, named after the baseball legend Joe DiMaggio.

Also included in the auction is a section of British Design including a terracotta Thinking Man's Chair designed by Jasper Morrison, furniture by Hille, ceramics by Poole and Midwinter and glass by Samuel Herman, Whitefriars, Mdina and a rare studio vase by Ronald Stennett-Willson. 

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