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Midcentury Designer's Off-Hours Paper Sculpture Goes to Auction

All photography courtesy Wright

Next month sees the New York exhibition and subsequent Chicago auction for an unusual collection of pieces in paper by industrial designer Irving Harper.
Physical model-making that takes painstaking hours to complete by hand is a passion for many architects and designers, apparently in defiance of the technological revolution. None more so than Harper, one of modernism's most prolific champions, who died last year just shy of celebrating his centenary.

When not designing space-age modernist icons like the Atomic Ball Clock and, during his 17-year tenure of George Nelson Associates, the Marshmallow Chair, Harper spent his downtime relaxing by creating intricate pieces from nothing more than cut, folded construction paper and glue. Over four decades, the collection of fantastical animals, abstracts, tribal figurines and masks grew to fill his three-story farmhouse and barn in Rye, an hour north of New York.

Aside from the odd gift to a friend, Harper kept the collection intact, but was eventually persuaded to exhibit it at the Rye Arts Centre Gallery, the last exhibition and subsequent publication of a monograph, Irving Harper: Works in Paper, taking place the year before his death.

A number of these intriguing pieces will be shown at Wright New York's gallery for two weeks prior to the January 21 auction of around 200 of Harper's paper sculptures at Wright Chicago.