WESTPORT, CONN. — Five months after hosting their premier sale, Travis and Kate Worrell, principals of Westport Auction, conducted what Travis Worrell characterized as the “best sale to date” on Sunday, September 29. Replete with plenty of Midcentury Modern furniture and accessories, compelling art collections and the prestigious Chinese antiques from the estate collection of Arthur and Joe Robinson, it was easy to see why the young firm is attracting so much interest.
It does not hurt that the auction house’s attractive salesroom is situated cheek-by-jowl to the Westport train station in a low brick building that was once the site of the Saugatuck Post Office. This prime location affords a nearly stress-free conduit for clients coming in from New York City — at least when the New Haven line is not experiencing mechanical difficulties. On this particular weekend, Metro North was still providing spotty service due to a Con Edison feed loader failure earlier in the week.
While a moderate-sized crowd browsed the Sunday morning preview leading up to the 1 pm auction, seats filled up later in the day as the Asian material crossed the block. Travis Worrell stated that there were 217 registered bidders, with up to four phones busy at times. At a pace of a little over 100 lots per hour, Worrell was able to dispatch the sale’s roster of nearly 600 lots in five hours and 45 minutes. And, stoked up on an assortment of sandwiches, chips, cookies, muffins and soft drinks, patrons in the salesroom were suitably energized to begin bidding at 1 pm.
No surprise, especially given all the preview activity at the salesroom’s main jewelry case housing small but highly desirable treasures of Chinese jade, that the sale’s top lot was a jade scepter cap carved during the early Qing dynasty (Eighteenth Century). Measuring a mere 37/8 inches in diameter, the lot was won by an Internet bidder from China for $19,680.
Provenance for the jade, as for most of the Asian items offered in the auction, was the collection stemming from the estate of Arthur and Joe Robinson, who had an antiques shop in Harrison, N.Y. The brothers were well-known antiques dealers in the New York metro area for 70 years. They had their first shop in Manhattan on Dyckman Street and Nagle Avenue and moved to Harrison in the 1960s. They had a passion for collecting rare and beautiful objects.
According to auction house notes, Arthur attended the well-known Art Students League in New York City and studied under George Bellows and Robert Reid. He became a fashion illustrator working for Gimbels and Kleins department stores. He was also a sign painter specializing in using gold leaf and professional photographer to the sports and entertainment industry. Collecting was the brothers’ life, everything from buttons, coins, stamps, paintings, sculpture, porcelain, clock sets, furniture, Tiffany art glass, silver, jewelry and Orientalia. It was this last category that was well represented at this sale, and collectors were keen to acquire something from the inseparable brothers.
The next highest price in the sale was also secured by a piece of jade from the Robinson collection. This was a Qing dynasty carved jade pendant amulet with pale celadon color and some russet at the top. Measuring approximately 2 by 15/8 by ¼ inches, the pendant, conservatively estimated $1/1,500, soared to $14,760. There were about eight such pendant amulets on display in the showcase during preview, and Worrell said they brought prices ranging from $1,700 to $14,000 from a mix of online and in-house bidders.
A local Weston, Conn., estate was the source of the sale’s third highest selling lot. A total of $17,220 was paid for a Puiforcat sterling silver six-piece tea service comprising, teapot on stand, platter, sugar, creamer and water pitcher.
The sale featured several interesting and controversial artworks from the collection of Marty Edelston, a Greenwich, Conn., marketing and publishing executive, who founded Bottom Line Publications, a series of newsletters focusing on health and finance. Edelston, who died in October, was 84. From Edelston’s collection was Robert Longo’s (American, b 1953) 1986 study for “Now is Creature (The Fly),” a drawing for the eventual steel sculpture of a male human in a housefly-like stance. The charcoal, graphite, dye, ink and pigment work on paper, 29½ by 41½ inches, sold to an online bidder for $12,300.
A robust section of the auction was devoted to midcentury furniture, lighting and decorative arts. A Gino Sarfatti Triennale three-light floor lamp, chrome-plated steel, painted and enameled metal, circa 1950s, was manufactured by Italian maker Arredoluce. Standing 80 inches high, the lamp fetched $6,150, within expectations. A rare Edward Wormley for Dunbar sideboard in French walnut with original brass pulls was in good condition with some wear to the varnish. It brought $2,768.
Perhaps folks were a might sleepy or it was just one of those times in a live auction where a lot flies under the radar and someone gets a good buy. Such was the case as lot number 133 crossed the block — a set of eight rosewood “Ingrid” dining chairs by Neils Koefoeds went out the door at $1,230.
Finally, the durable desirability of Louis Vuitton luggage was again proven when phone bidders won two of the venerable steamer trunks. Going bye-bye was an early Twentieth Century example supposedly owned by the Vanderbilt family — it had many stickers and the initials “AV” on the left side —which realized $6,458. Another trunk, circa 1910, was bid to $5,228.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
The next sale at Westport Auction will be October 27, For information, 203-222-3448 or www.westportauction.com.