ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The eagerly anticipated highlight in the Collection of Dr Joseph T. and Gaile E. Wingard, of Jacksonville, Fla., which Brunk Auctions auctioned Saturday, November 21, was an important early inscription jar attributed to Dave Drake. It did not fail to disappoint, bringing $369,000 from a West Coast institution on the phone that prevailed against other institutions and private collectors. The price set an auction record for any work by Dave Drake, the African American enslaved potter who was working for the Pottersville Stoneware Manufactory in Edgefield, S.C., when this was made in 1836.
Amid many loud and unified calls in 2020 for museums to fill major gaps in their collections as it pertains to minority artists from both today and throughout history, institutions have begun clamoring to get their hands on Drake’s work, according to major sellers. Drake is considered the finest African American potter in early America. Though he is one of many African American potters of his day, he is among the only to sign their work.
This is the third time since February of this year that Dave’s artist auction record has been broken. Brunk did it in February with a $184,500 result for a jar, Crocker Farm upped it to $216,000 in May for another jar, and we arrive at Brunk’s $369,000 result for the present example. Spectacular interest carried into Dave’s other forms as well, including record prices paid this year for jugs from the potter.
This was an early example for Dave, and according to an Arthur F. Goldberg and James P. Witkowski article in Chipstone’s 2006 Ceramics in America, it is the eighth earliest known dated work and the fourth earliest known to hold an inscription. The jar also had the desirable elements of a dynamic glaze that had been applied in two directions, the discrete presence of the tern “catination” that auctioneer Andrew Brunk speculated could reference chains and bondage, and the fingerprints in the glaze on the base edge that create a tangible link to Dave himself. The jar was one of five pieces of Edgefield pottery signed or attributed to Drake in the collection, which saw a combined total of $1,025,666.
The Wingard collection was not the only one to cross the block at Brunk’s; the Lake Toxaway, N.C., estate of Paul W. Doll, Jr was comprised of Asian, British, Continental, American and modern art, furniture and decorative art, jewelry and coins. It crossed the block on Friday, November 20, and saw a combined total of $806,634.
Watch for a more extensive review of both sales in a future issue. For more information, www.brunkauctions.com.