Published: December 4, 2007
“It was a strong, strong showing,” commented auctioneer Ronan Clarke in the days following the Third Annual Fine Art Sale conducted at Clarke Auction on Monday, November 5. “I was blown away with the sale, to be quite honest with you,” stated an exuberant Clarke, who was pleased with the gallery packed with bidders, more phone and absentee bids than they have handled in the past and a strong presence on the Internet.
A diverse mixture of material was offered at the auction, all of it, according to the auctioneer, “reflecting my tastes. This stuff is all fresh to the market and it takes us all year to put this sale together,” he said. “If it doesn’t blend with my tastes, we sell it as it comes in. If I like it, we set it aside for our fine art sale.”
With that said, Clarke was quick to interject that his taste is quite eclectic, but leans toward Modernist views. “There is always a good selection of paintings in regular monthly auctions,” he advised.
“We have built this sale up over the last three years and the prices are as good as you would get anywhere,” he said. Alluding to the Internet bidding for the auction, Clarke commented, “This is the only auction where we allow Internet bidding; we are still going to remain a live auction house for all of our other sales.” Clarke reasoned that getting people out to the auctions is an important part of doing business in today’s marketplace.
The auction did indeed have an eclectic feel, with merchandise ranging from Contemporary to Modernist to Hudson River School and also included other Nineteenth Century genres. There were record prices established, there were paintings that sold at bargain prices, all making for an enjoyable evening sale, surmised the auctioneer.
Leading the auction was a John Wilde oil on panel depicting a Modernist view of an apartment interior, executed in 1955. The painting depicted a woman undressing in a room partially in view from the side of a hallway and, as seen through the door at the end of the hall, a painter recording a view of a young child playing with blocks. The interesting work was signed and dated on a series of jumbled child’s playing blocks that were strewn in the hallway.
“There is still a market being developed for this artist,” Clarke stated about the painter who passed away last year. Bidding on the lot was brisk, with five phone bidders hammering away until it eventually sold for $49,937, a record price at auction for the artist. The eclipsed record had been established at Sotheby’s when a Wilde still life sold at $38,000, according to Clarke.
A painting that appeared to depict a gallery opening or a party was executed by the brother of acknowledged African American Modernist artist Beauford Delaney. The Joseph Delaney work performed well and was another lot believed by Clarke to have established a record price for the artist. The oil on canvas, executed in 1971, depicted a bunch of brightly dressed hip young people in a room with art on the walls. A wall of windows looked out over SoHo, where Delaney lived for a period in the 1970s. Acquired by Clarke many years ago while he was selling antiques from his former Bronx business, the painting had originally been framed under glass. Estimated at $15/20,000, the painting had three phone bidders chasing the lot, with it selling for $26,437.
Another Modernist scene to do well was a Daniel Celentano New York City street scene at dusk. Dated 1940 and estimated at $10/15,000, five phone bidders pursued the oil on canvas. One determined bidder in the gallery was not to be outdone, however, as he claimed the lot at $21,250.
One of the surprises of the action was a Pierre Bonnard oil on canvas depicting a seated woman. Estimated at only $2/3,000, the painting took off, with it hammering down at $14,100. Selling for the same price was an abstract oil on canvas signed and dated by Indian artist Shanti Dave, 1963.
While emptying the leftover contents of a Manhattan estate after other auction houses had skimmed the better antiques, Clarke discovered a small oil on cardboard that was apparently being used as a bookmark. Measuring 6 by 8 inches, the unusual piece was signed “Frida Kahlo” in the lower right corner and depicted Diego Rivera and the artist in an embrace. The auctioneer noted that the estate was that of an elderly woman, an artist herself, and there was virtually no other material that related to the painting. Offered without a presale estimate, the lot created quite a stir when it crossed the auction block. Bidding was described as “rapid” as the lot sold for $12,925.
A small 9-by-11-inch French painting by Alfred Sisley, an oil on board depicting a canal scene, was another lot to shoot past estimates, bringing $12,925, while an unsigned Arthur Davies oil titled “Dance of Love,” marked with the artist’s estate stamp on the verso, hammered down at $11,162.
The auction gallery had high hopes for a painting of a Scottish militia man thought to have been a member of the Black Watch. Cataloging it as Eighteenth Century, the early oil on canvas attracted attention from overseas, including from a baron in Scotland. The lot exceeded estimates, yet fell short of the high hopes, as it realized $7,050.
A painting by Ellen Emmet Rand depicted three similarly dressed young boys seated on a sofa with the eldest flipping pages of a book. Clarke felt the painting depicted the artist’s grandsons, yet was not able to glean much information beyond that. The painting was bid aggressively by a client in the gallery until he claimed the lot above the $4/6,000 estimates at $10,575.
The auction gallery later learned that the successful bidder’s father was one of the three youths in the portrait and it had been painted by the buyer’s great-grandmother.
A Walter Gay interior scene was brought into the auction gallery by a local woman and instructions were given to the auction house to “sell” the oil on board. With a crack in the panel and bowed surface, Clarke conservatively estimated the work at $1/1,500. A bidding war erupted as the lot was offered, with several chasing the lot to a selling price of $14,100.
An oil on board attributed to French artist Camille Corot depicting a woman walking on a path in a wooded area was another surprise for the auctioneer as the painting sold well above the $2/ 3,000 estimates, bringing $12,925. A signed Corot watercolor landscape sold at $6,462.
Prices include the 15 percent buyer’s premium charged. The next auction at Clarke’s will be a general sale on December 10. For further information, www.ccauctiongallery.com or 914-833-8336.
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