Neutra strength

Times Staff Writer

The KAUFMANN HOUSE in Palm Springs, designed by Richard Neutra in 1946, was bought by an undisclosed buyer for $16.84 million, including the purchase premium, on Tuesday as part of Christie's Post-War & Contemporary Art auction in New York. Although the winning bid was at the low end of the $15 million to $25 million estimate, the Kaufmann property (above) still commanded the highest price of the American modernist houses recently sold as architectural collectibles. In 2003, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House was sold in a Sotheby's auction for $7.5 million. In 2006, Wright auctioned Pierre Koenig's Case Study House No. 21 for nearly $3.2 million. The five-bedroom Kaufmann House on 2.1 acres was first immortalized in a 1947 Julius Shulman image taken poolside at dusk. The home was commissioned by Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr., a Pittsburgh department store owner who hired Frank Lloyd Wright to build the iconic Fallingwater in 1935 in Pennsylvania. Kaufmann died in 1955 and the Palm Springs property changed hands (Barry Manilow once called it home) and underwent tacky renovations. In 1992, architectural historian Beth Edwards Harris and her then-husband, Brent Harris, purchased the home for $1.5 million and retained the L.A. architecture firm Marmol Radziner & Associates, whose meticulous restoration stayed true to Neutra's original design. The sale was handled by Christie's Realty International.

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