Own a Piece of Culinary History Thanks to Sotheby’s “Luxe: The Art of the Table”

Ahead of Sotheby’s Art of the Table auction on April 26, stylist and photographer Judy Kim breathes new life into old, precious objects.

“It’s no secret to the Sotheby’s specialists – this French dinner service was one of my favourites. The pale robin’s egg blue colour with the gold detail caught my eye. I was especially fond of the uniquely shaped dishes such as the boat shape.” — Judy Kim • Courtesy of Sotheby’s

On Wednesday, April 26, Sotheby’s will host an auction right after our own Edible hearts—Luxe: The Art of the Table.

The auction will feature both silver and ceramics from the seventeenth to the twentieth century, as well as nineteenth century French furniture and decorative arts.

Ahead of the auction, we spoke with Sotheby’s specialists Alessandra Merrill and Derya Baykal about what to expect from the auction, why the collection is so special, and how a recent collaboration with food stylist and photographer Judy Kim has breathed new life into these old, precious objects.

“So many of these objects are museum-quality,” says Merrill, a silver and Vertu specialist. “But many of them were just utilitarian pieces, too. They were used. You can see their life. Take Lot 159 for example. It’s a meat dish. You can see all these knife cuts on it and you just know: this dish was used many times for dinner.”

“From a distance, this Worcester porcelain tea set has a simple beautiful bluish hue, but the striking geometric designs really caught my attention. A dessert spread of apple pie, madeleines, strawberries and lemon curd served in delicate eggshells – royal title not necessary.” — Judy Kim

This is the beauty of table pieces. They exist solely to bring people together—to help people eat, drink and be merry—and those that survive centuries of time and use can continue to bring people together. Even now and especially here.

“Everything really does have a story here in the sale,” says Baykal, a porcelain and ceramics specialist. “We always try to show our clients how these objects can be livable. Yes, they are treasures, but they also exist to be used. Our collaboration with Judy [Kim] really brought that life.”

Take one look at Kim’s collaboration with Sotheby’s and you’ll know that what Baykal is saying is true. In Kim’s hands, a set of four George III silver candlesticks from 1762 (Lot 60) look perfectly at home on a modern, Hamptons-style table. In Kim’s photos, it is easy to imagine a pair of Royal Ducal George IV silver-gilt wine coolers from 1816 (Lot 213) cradling a bottle or two of Wölffer rosé.

“I love how substantial this silver-gilt wine cooler feels, even in a photo. It reminds me of the Wimbledon championship trophy.” — Judy Kim

“A lot of people think of Sotheby’s as off-limits,” says Merrill, “but we like to remind people that many of our pieces are more accessible than they might realize.”

This is true in terms of both price and function. The objects in the Art of the Table sale are meant to be used—and with prices beginning at $1,000 (many with no reserve), the objects are surprisingly affordable.

“In this collection, you can really see the evolution of the art of the table,” says Merrill. “In the 18th century, there were sideboards where you’d place all your silver and flashily show your wealth. Judy [Kim] is showing you how you can more subtly and artfully display these pieces.”

In Kim’s photos, the objects look at home.

To bid on any of the objects in the Art of the Table auction, you can register online, submit an absentee bid, or bid over the phone with a Sotheby’s representative. Of course you can also attend the auction in-person in New York.

For more information, please visit Sotheby’s website. For more on Judy Kim, please visit her website or follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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Meghan Harlow

Meghan is the editor of Edible East End and Edible Long Island.