This sofa was designed in 1971 by Studio 65, a design group based in Turin, Italy.
Dear Helaine and Joe:
This sofa has been in my family for the past 19 years. We are packing to move and maybe it is time for the piece to go to a better home. After doing some Internet research, I think the piece may be an original, even though there is no label. Are you able to help us with a resale value?
P.M., Naples, Fla.
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Because of the movie and television versions of “MASH,” the term “Hot Lips” is one that is familiar to many. But this “Studio 65 Bocca lip sofa” certainly qualifies as an entirely different kind of “Hot Lips.”
Sofas such as the one in today’s question are an icon of modern design. They are often seen in popular commercial media, and while some are valuable, many others are somewhat less so.
This sofa was designed in 1971 by Studio 65, a design group based in Turin, Italy, and was called the “Bocca,” which mean “mouth”in Italian. It is also called the “Marilyn Lip Sofa”(a reference to actress Marilyn Monroe), but it really was inspired by a work by surrealist painter Salvador Dali, who had created a lips sofa in the 1930s.
Dali was inspired by his own work, a gouache painting of actress Mae West. As an artistic movement, surrealism drew upon the dream life for inspiration and featured shapes and images that were fantastic in nature.
On occasion, modern design shared this same theme, and Dali’s “lip sofa” was perfect for reinterpretation. When Studio 65 updated the Dali design, the company named it in honor of Monroe. It gained international attention in 1972 when it was exhibited in “Italy” at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.
There are two different versions of this sofa available on the market, one by Gufram and the other by Heller. The difference between the two editions is that the Gufram is made of soft polyurethane (a high-resiliency flexible foam) and upholstered with an elastic fabric that can be removed and washed.
The Heller edition, on the other hand, is made entirely out of polymer plastic, which meant that it can be used outdoors. The Gufram “lips sofa” cannot be used outdoors and is considerably more expensive in the collectibles market.
The Gufram can still be purchased for around $8,000, while the Heller is reportedly available for about $1,000. The current value of the piece owned by P.M. depends on which manufacturer produced the piece.
It appears from the photos that the sofa in today’s question has the removable fabric cover of the Gufram edition. It would, however, have been much, much better if the original tag stating when this particular sofa was made and by what company had survived.
With modern design, the term “original” can be a bit tricky, especially if the piece in question is still being produced and sold in the current marketplace. If P.M.’s example is a vintage Gufram, this sofa would probably sell in the $4,000-$5,000 range at a high-quality modern-design auction conducted by a company that specializes in this sort of merchandise.
(Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of “Price It Yourself” (HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, PO Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.)