Sculpture for Mezzo restaurant by Allen Jones – £16,500 at Bonhams’ sale of the Sir Terence Conran collection.

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In the mid-to-late 1950s, the Southampton-born artist studied at the Hornsey College of Art and then the Royal College of Art, where his contemporaries included Patrick Caulfield and David Hockney.

After starting to develop his trademark sexualised imagery at around this time, he was expelled from the latter institution in 1960.

However, he was still permitted to help curate the Young Contemporaries exhibition at the Royal Society of British Artists a year later.

The show featured works by artists such as Hockney, Peter Phillips and Derek Boshier, all of whom studied at the RCA with Jones and would together become pre-eminent names in London’s emerging pop art scene.

Controversial creations

Commercially, Jones’ well-known but controversial sculptures of leather-glad female mannequins posing as furniture (tables, chairs and hatstands) are the most valuable on the current market. Although not to everyone’s taste, they can make strong six-figure prices.

While he began experimenting with such forms in the late 1960s, earlier in the decade he produced a series of paintings which were inspired by American pop artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg, adopting glaring colours and layered compositions.

In fact, these highly stylised pictures remained a key part of his output throughout his career and examples often appear at auction, many of which are distinctly more affordable than the fetishist mannequins.

The recent appearance at auction of a group of works which Jones created to decorate a London restaurant was a slightly different kettle of fish.

The five murals and one sculpture were commissioned by Sir Terence Conran for his Soho restaurant Mezzo which opened in 1995.

The works appeared at Bonhams(27.5% buyer’s premium) sale of items from Conran’s personal collection on December 14. The 394 lots included furniture, works of art and decorative pieces that the designer-manufacturer, who opened his first Habitat shop in Chelsea in 1964, had kept at his 17th-century manor house Barton Court, near Hungerford in Berkshire.

The New Bond Street sale was a white-glove affair with all the lots selling for a premium-inclusive total of £1.18m more. The best-seller was Jones’ sculpture which stood in the reception area of the Mezzo premises in Wardour Street, welcoming guests into the restaurant for their evening.

The polychrome painted steel sculpture of a waiter with a diner measured an impressive 7ft 11in (2.37m) high.

Sculptures like this without an obvious erotic theme by Jones are not unheard of on the market, although they are relatively rare. This one was estimated at £15,000-20,000 and sold at £16,500.


One of a group of five murals from Mezzo painted by Allen Jones that were sold at Bonhams – this one made £16,000.

The five murals which had also featured in the restaurant’s interior were offered separately here. The large-scale oils, painted on large MDF panels, were placed on the ‘stage’ of the downstairs restaurant and acted as a backdrop to music throughout the evening.

After their spell in Mezzo, the murals were removed and had featured in a number of exhibitions since 2011, most recently at the Allen Jones solo exhibition at The Royal Academy in 2014-15.

They fetched a combined £64,000. The highest price among them came for an 8ft 5in (2.56m) high depiction of a couple sipping cocktails behind a curtain. Estimated at £7000-10,000, it took £16,000.

Against the same estimate, a similarly sized mural of two conjoined figures made £13,000, while a painting of two figures dancing and another of a waiter and a band playing both fetched £12,000.