January Fine Art Auctions Exceed $2 Million

Fine Paintings & Sculpture

Skinner held its first 2021 auction of Paintings, Sculpture & Works on Paper on Friday, January 22nd. Spirited bidding from telephones, online participants, and absentee bidders led to a gross of $1,393,656 and an impressive 90% sell-through rate on 213 lots. “In this white-hot market,” says Robin S.R. Starr, Vice President and department director, “buyers are hungry for works of art, regardless of their period or media.”

Rufino Tamayo (Mexican, 1899-1991) Sandías. Sold for: $81,250

The top lot was Rufino Tamayo’s Sandías (Watermelons) of 1989. This patinated steel sculpture of geometricized stacked watermelon slices—a motif that he frequently used in his paintings and prints—sold for $81,250. Other successful Modern and Contemporary works included Oskar Kokoschka’s 1963 watercolor Rittersporn, Iris, und Pfingstrosen (Delphinium, Iris, and Peonies) which brought $37,500, well beyond its $22,000-28,000 estimate. Robert Wilson’s Rudolf Hess Beach Chairs, 1990, brought $30,000; and Blue Pile 2, 2001, by John Gibson sold for $11,875.

George Inness (American, 1825-1894) Out to Pasture. Sold for: $53,125

American works from the 19th and 20th centuries garnered strong interest. In particular, a George Inness work titled Out to Pasture, c. 1868/9, which was recently rediscovered in a private Boston-area collection, sold for $53,125. Fairfield Porter’s small 1970 oil sketch entitled Skiff brought a big price of $62,500 against an estimate of $20,000-30,000; Robert Henri’s (American, 1865-1929) Dunes, Atlantic City, 1892, exceeded its $10,000-15,000 estimate selling at $20,000; and Mary Cassatt’s portrait Sketch of a Head of a Girl in a Hat with a Black Rosette, sold at $50,000.

Other portraits were highly sought-after regardless of period. Abram Poole’s Portrait of Harriet Hoctor En Pointe depicting the classically trained ballerina who was especially popular in the 1920s and 1930s, sold for $62,500 and Gilbert Stuart’s Portrait of a Man, Said To Be Theophilus Jones brought $26,260. Portraits by Sir Godfrey Kneller, John Hoppner, and sculptor Sarah Bernhardt also sold successfully.

Fine Prints & Photographs

Skinner’s first Fine Prints & Photographs auction in the new year was wildly successful. The sale blasted past its high estimate of $548,350 to gross $693,775 with an astounding 96% sell-through rate.

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Mick Jagger. Sold for: $68,750

Blue-chip artists of the 20th and 21st centuries dominated, led by Andy Warhol’s Mick Jagger, from the 1975 suite of the same name, at $68,750 exceeding its $25,000-35,000 estimate, and Chuck Close’s 2000 Self Portrait, selling for $40,625 against a $20,000-30,000 estimate. Works by Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Wayne Thiebaud, and Frank Stella also saw aggressive bidding. Even works after the great masters met or exceeded their estimates, including Buste de femme au chapeau bleu (Dora Maar), 1955, a color lithograph after Picasso’s oil painting of 1944, bringing $32,500, and Odalisque au coffret rouge, of 1952, a color aquatint reproducing Matisse’s work of 1926, bringing $21,250.

After Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) Buste de femme au chapeau bleu (Dora Maar), 1955. Sold for: $32,500

While Modern and Contemporary works led the success of the prints, works from all periods met or outperformed their estimates. Early 20th century American works fared well, including Thomas Hart Benton’s The Race selling at $11,875; Gustave Baumann’s From Hillside Gardens, also at $11,875; and February by Grant Wood bringing $6,875.

Old Masters garnered strong interest with Rembrandt van Rijn’s Nude Man Seated and Another Standing, with a Woman and Baby Lightly Etched in the Background, c. 1646 topping the group selling for $9,375 and Israhel van Meckenem the Younger’s Woman Spinning with a Visitor, c. 1495, bringing $62,50.

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004) The Mission Council, Saigon, April 28, 1971, printed 1975. Sold for: $7,500

Like prints, photographs sold well across the board, regardless of period. Richard Avedon’s The Mission Council, Saigon, April 28, 1971, printed 1975, brought $7,500; a small-format printing of Moon Over Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, 1960 by Ansel Adams sold for $4,688; and Yousuf Karsh’s Georgia O’Keeffe, shot in 1956, sold at $5,000.

Several groups of NASA photographs from various periods took off, including a group of five images from the Gemini XII mission, which fetched $5,938. Bidding on three lots by Bruce of Los Angeles (Bruce Bellas) was so heated that the final closing time for the auction was extended for over an hour.


Skinner’s next auction of Paintings, Sculpture & Works on Paper will be held on May 21st, and the next auction of Prints, Multiples & Photographs will be held online May 11th through May 20th. We are seeking consignments for these auction through mid-March, and will be accepting consignments for future sales throughout the year.

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