New York

New York – On Thursday, June 14, Christie’s is pleased to offer A San Francisco Iconoclast: Henry Africa’s Magnificent Tiffany Collection, comprising seven beautifully crafted leaded glass lamps valued at $2 million. Originator of the “fern bar” concept, Norman Jay Hobday opened the bar Henry Africa’s at the corners of Polk and Broadway, (later moved to Van Ness and Vallejo) in San Francisco. The décor of a “fern bar” was defined by its hanging fern planters, warm lighting and comfortable antique furnishings which transformed the bar scene into a safe place to socialize for the growing ranks of young urban professionals at the dawn of the 1970s. He officially took the name of the bar as his own and over the next five decades, opened several equally eclectic dining and drinking establishments, including Eddie Rickenbacker’s, which opened in 1987 in San Francisco’s financial district. Africa decorated Rickenbacker’s with several of his beloved collections: vintage motorcycles, model trains, Venetian glass chandeliers and superb Tiffany lamps.

Josh Holdeman, International Director, 20th Century Art, said“It is an honor for Christie’s to offer the magnificent Tiffany lamps comprising this collection. A true connoisseur, Henry Africa selected the best individual examples of each lamp.  Situated behind the bar among martini glasses and underneath hanging motorcycles at “Eddie Rickenbacker’s,” the world’s first “fern bar,” where the “lemon drop” was invented, these lamps ring true as an integral part of pure San Franciscan lore.”

Eddie Rickenbacker’s epitomized the spirit of a city known for its quirky characters and strident individualism. His collection of Tiffany lamps was stationed behind the bar, lined up among the tumblers and martini glasses, vintage motorcycles hung from the ceiling, interspersed with Venetian glass chandeliers and model trains circling the perimeter from above.

The colorful floral lamps, including superb examples of the “Wisteria” (estimate: 500,000-700,000) and “Laburnum” (estimate: $400,000-600,000) models with their domed forms and intense hues, were a startling but intriguing contrast with the rest of the décor at Rickenbacker’s. An inveterate collector, starting his Tiffany collection with the “Daffodil” (estimate: $50,000-70,000), Africa thoughtfully acquired each subsequent lamp, taking great joy in the hunt as well as in the fantastical creation of Eddie Rickenbacker’s.

Henry Africa (Norman Hobday)

Norman Hobday, aka “Henry Africa,” was a fixture in the San Francisco saloon scene for 50 years. Credited with inventing the Fern Bar concept in 1970 with Henry Africa’s Bar at Polk at Broadway, later moved to Van Ness at Vallejo, he also is known as the inventor of the “Lemon Drop” cocktail. Other bars he owned included the Dartmouth Social Club, Admiral Duncan, Flo Nightingale’s, and The Mouse House.

Auction: A San Francisco Iconoclast: Henry Africa’s Magnificent Tiffany Collection   June 14, 2012

Viewing: Christie's Rockefeller Galleries                                                                     June 9-13, 2012

About Christie’s

Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had global auction and private sales in 2011 that totaled £3.6 billion/$5.7 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise, as well as international glamour. Founded in 1766 by James Christie, Christie's has since conducted the greatest and most celebrated auctions through the centuries providing a popular showcase for the unique and the beautiful. Christie’s offers over 450 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie's also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War and Contemporary, Impressionist and Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery.  Private sales totaled £502 million / $808.6m in 2011, an increase of 44% on the previous year.


Christie’s has a global presence with 53 offices in 32 countries and 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, and Hong Kong. More recently, Christie’s has led the market with expanded initiatives in emerging and new markets such as Russia, China, India and the United Arab Emirates, with successful sales and exhibitions in Beijing, Mumbai and Dubai.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and do not reflect costs, financing fees or application of buyer’s or seller’s credits.

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About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvador Mundi, 2017), for a 20th century artwork (Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn2022), for a single charitable collection sale (the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, 2018), and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019).

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