Outstanding auctions on January 27 offered 475 lots that included a wide choice of pre-20th-century material as well as a notable quantity of Modern and Contemporary artwork in all categories: paintings, sculpture, prints and photographs. Today’s collectors, notes Robin S. R. Starr, Director of American & European Works of Art, are especially eager for 20th and 21st-century material; call it the millennial effect.
The star of the very successful auctions was Alexander Calder’s Untitled (Standing Mobile), Lot 440. It brought $471,000, almost double the pre-auction estimate.
Another Calder work, a circus-themed gouache titled Profils, Lot 439, similarly exceeded the estimate, selling for $147,000.
The reasons for these prices? Calder’s iconic status as a pioneer who essentially invented the mobile sculpture form; his unmistakable aesthetic; and his joyful, whimsical, utterly original spirit in every medium he attempted.
Two other sculptures, both fresh-to-market, did extremely well: Auguste Rodin’s Juggler, an 11 ½” bronze that brought $73,800 (estimate $25,00-35,000) and Lydia Benglis’ Pi. This multi-media construction brought $67,650 on an estimate of $15,000-20,000.
Other top lots were three oil landscapes:
♦ Ivan Aivazovsky, Along the Coast of Capri, sold for $123,000 A luminous work by this leading figure of Russian Romanticism especially admired for his seascapes and coastal scenes.
♦ Guy Carleton Wiggins, Mid-town, 5th Avenue, Winter sold well over estimate at $104,550. Like many other lots in this auction, this depiction of a busy urban street muffled in snow had the added appeal of being fresh-to-market.
♦ Henri Martin, La tour de Collioure, sold for $375,000. Large, light-filled, colorful, a splendid example of post-Impressionist pointillism.
Clear proof of the brisk market for 20th-century art was the price achieved by Lot 421, Abstraction, by the Canadian painter Lawren Stewart Harris, selling for $79,950. Harris was a member of the Transcendental Paint Group, a New Mexico-based movement which promoted abstract and non-objective art in the late 1930s and 40s.
The portion of the auction devoted to prints and photographs shared the same emphasis on what Robin Starr calls “the truly impeccable; the iconic.”
Highlights among prints:
♦ Two Roy Lichtensteins from late in his career. Portrait, 1989, achieved $22,140; and The Art Critic, 1996, brought $27,060. Both combining pop art and parody, employing his ubiquitous Ben-Day dots and bright comic-book like colors.
♦ Robert Rauschenberg, Signs, sold for $23,370. The “signs” include signature images of America’s tumultuous 1960s: the Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King, Janis Joplin, and astronauts, among others.
♦ Frank Stella’s Hark, an imposing (over 72 x 52”) color lithograph brought $11,685.
20th century works also lead the Photographs section. The standout was Irving Penn’s palladium print of Marcel Duchamp selling at $22,140. It is part of Penn’s “Corner” series begun in 1948: iconic photographer, iconic subject.
Other top photographs include:
♦ Edward Weston’s Dunes, Oceano, gelatin silver print realized $3,398.
♦ Ernst Haas, Lights of New York City, brought $3,444. A chromogenic print from a pioneer of color photography.
Next American & European Works of Art Auction: May 19, 2017
Consignments are currently being accepted for Skinner’s May 2017 American & European Works of Art auction. Skinner specialists are always available to discuss the sale of a single item or an entire collection. For information contact the American & European Works of Art Department at 508-970-3206 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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