LARCHMONT, N.Y. — In an auction filled with wonderful items, the one lot that everyone in the crowd anticipated was the large oil on canvas by German surrealist artist Richard Oelze. The large and intricate painting titled “Archaic Fragment” was executed in 1935 when the artist was in Paris and was last seen in the major 1942 surrealist exhibition “First Papers of Surrealism” in New York City. Its whereabouts unknown since that time, the painting was discovered during the cleanout of an estate, wrapped in an old sheet.
Clarke Auction principal Ronan Clarke was one of several attending to nine clients bidding on the telephones as auctioneer Nelia Moore opened the lot at $30,000. Several telephone bidders, a couple Internet bidders and a gentleman standing in the rear of the gallery executed fast-paced bids all the way to the $100,000 mark, where competition narrowed to a single phone bidder and the bidder in the gallery.
Moving in $10,000 advances, the phone bidder and the gentleman in the rear swapped bids rapidly to the $300,000 mark, where the phone bidder took a moment to hit the lot at $310,000. The bidder in the gallery quickly hit the painting at $320,000; yet the phone bidder came right back at $330,000, causing the bidder in the room to abruptly turn and head for the door. Halfway across the lobby, he turned back and motioned that he was back in at $340,000 with what turned out to be the final uncontested bid. The painting realized $414,800, inclusive of premium.
A complete review of the Clarke Auction will appear in a future issue. —DSS