Design Icon Joel Chen’s Incredible Collection Hits the Auction Block

This week, Christie’s is selling highlights from the antiques dealer’s spectacular trove

Joel Chen at his namesake Los Angeles gallery.
Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2017
A vignette featuring pieces from Joel Chen’s collection, including a tapestry by Alexander Calder and Ubald Klug settees. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2017

For the last 40 years, Joel Chen has been celebrated for his discerning eye, making his Los Angeles shop, JF Chen, a mecca for the world’s most notable interior designers, celebrities, and design enthusiasts. Now, highlights from his incredible collection are featured in an online sale by Christie’s New York through February 14th, with a live auction happening on the 13th.

“Some call it sickness, I call it compulsive. In my collection process, I put knowledge to great use and dabble in every category as long as the pieces meet my criteria: history, craftsmanship, originality, some provenance if it has, and beauty to behold,” says Chen.

The pieces included in the sale certainly uphold this philosophy, with a broad mix that spans everything from East Asian antiques to Ettore Sottsass. The offerings illustrate Chen’s evolution from a specialist in Asian works of art to a much broader range of boldface names in the design world.

A vignette of Chen’s pieces designed by Steven Gambrel.

“This special auction is certainly a grand labor of love weaved together between our team and Christie’s,” he notes. “From provenance, to condition, to research, I hope the end result is as rewarding as the journey has been.” To artfully display the works, Chen enlisted New York interior designer Steven Gambrel. These beautifully curated vignettes illustrate how easily different periods and styles can blend, and the wonderful possibilities they create when they do.

A Hans Agne Jakobsson ceiling lamp hangs above a Hans Wegner dining table surrounded by red Finn Juhl chairs.

Many important pieces by Dan Johnson are included in the sale, most notable being his gazelle-inspired works with their lithe, curved legs. On view, an incredible star tapestry by Alexander Calder hangs above Ubald Klug settees, while an exceptional Hans Agne Jakobsson ceiling lamp floats above a Hans Wegner dining table surrounded by red Finn Juhl chairs. Art makes an appearance in the auction too, including a collection of photographs by Craig McDean entitled “Sumo” that received attention during the preview. A striking set archival prints by Jim Riswold entitled “The Chairs of Chairman Mao, Fourteen Works” depicts the political figure humorously standing on iconic design chairs.

Late 18th- and 19-century wallpaper coverings are on offer at Christie’s Photo: Courtesy of Christie's

In the same way that Chen approaches his store with a true love and passion for collecting, he says of the sale, “It’s more love than labor, and together we have built a beautiful show.” christies.com

A Gazelle cocktail table by Dan Johnson. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2017
A 1998 Ettore Sottsass vase, from the Capricci Series. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2017
A Gazelle lounge chair by Dan Johnson. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2017
A Frits Henningsen high back chair and Ottoman designed in 1935. Photo: Courtesy of Christie's
A Carlo Mollino ‘Cervinia’ side chair. Photo: Courtesy of Christie's