Rye Arts Center Auction of Harper Sculpture Exceeds Expectations

Rye Arts Center Auction of Harper  Sculpture Exceeds Expectations: Though he was once an industrial designer by profession, and a successful one at that, Irving Harper has found celebrity in the 98th year of his life because of his whimsical, colorful, and structurally complex paper sculptures.

Published January 16, 2015 11:30 PM
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RAC-editors-thRye Arts Center Auction of Harper  Sculpture Exceeds Expectations:

Though he was once an industrial designer by profession, and a successful one at that, Irving Harper has found celebrity in the 98th year of his life because of his whimsical, colorful, and structurally complex paper sculptures.

 

By Margot Clark-Junkins

 

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Though he was once an industrial designer by profession, and a successful one at that, Irving Harper has found celebrity in the 98th year of his life because of his whimsical, colorful, and structurally complex paper sculptures.

These last few months, not only our community but countless visitors from well beyond Westchester have had the privilege of visiting Harper’s creations at the Rye Arts Center’s delightful exhibit, “Irving Harper: Mid-Century Mind at Play,” curated by Katharine Dufault and Jeff Taylor. (The exhibit closes January 24.)

Harper has lived in Rye for over 50 years and his home is filled with hundreds of paper sculptures. After working closely with the curators to prepare the exhibit, he decided to give one of the pieces — a coiled paper snake — to the RAC as a gesture of thanks. He encouraged the not-for-profit to hold an auction at which the snake would be sold to the highest bidder. Knowing that the funds raised would go to all arts, education, and outreach initiatives, Executive Director Helen Gates was thrilled and acted quickly to bring the event together. And Auction Co-Chairs Meg Rodriguez and Judith Passanante attended to every detail.

On a bitterly cold night last weekend, the Arts Center was filled with admirers, bidders, and spectators, eager to see who would bring home the vibrant snake with red stripes and turquoise and green spikes.

As the auction drew near, the man of the hour was wheeled toward the podium. With a glass of red wine in hand and warm slippers on his feet, Mr. Harper signed copies of a book about his paper sculptures and spoke politely with his admirers. He handled the attention with aplomb, raising his glass with a smile when a photographer called out to him, “Cheers.”

Once the auction got underway, the packed room grew silent and tense whenever auctioneer Jeff Taylor elicited the next highest bid. Time slowed to a crawl before the hammer went down. Sold — for $21,000 to Kate and Paul Conn of Rye!

All were happy to see a creative genius lauded for his life’s work; and happy to see a community arts center doing what it does best: bringing people together to celebrate creativity.

 

— Photos by Kathleen Durkee

 

 

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