Published: October 19, 2021
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy Abell Auctions
LOS ANGELES – Don Schireson has been in the business long enough to have a perspective.
“We get a lot of stuff in here,” he recently told us as he looked across his gallery following Abell Auctions’ October 3 sale.
He said the auction, which consisted of 463 lots, hammered at more than $2.5 million and was in the top ten percent of auctions, gross-wise, that he had ever overseen there.
Times have certainly changed for Abell Auctions over its 105 years of existence.
“Before Covid, we only did three online sales a year,” Schireson said. “But we had our weekly Thursday auction that we’ve had for more than 100 years where we sell thousands of lots each week. Nothing was online, we would have 300-400 people in the house each week. Covid forced us to change. No one does what we do, the amount of goods we sell that come through estates. We’ve been in business since 1916 and we get the merchandise and it’s fresh.”
Those weekly Thursday sales are all online now, Schireson said, calling attention to his overburdened warehouse storage.
Schireson acknowledged the reach he gets with the online sales, but he also laments the lack of community that the model strips bare – no more crowds at the sales, no more toasts, no more shared experiences at the auction. “The younger generation loves it, I hate it,” he said. “Prices are a little better, but you sell a dining set and it’s here for months.”
It would be hard not to love a $2.5 million hammer and Schireson was keen to talk about his latest horde as much as he could. Which is to say, in the great City of Angels, where money runs fast and silver screen names are a dime a dozen, he practices discretion when naming names.
You could blink twice at the results for an untitled spherical wall-hanging work by contemporary artist Anish Kapoor that brought $408,000 or the $260,000 paid for Damien Hirst’s “Beautiful I Don’t Want to be a Dead Artist Painting,” an 85-inch diameter painting emulating the spin art of your summer camp childhood, but you would do better to move on to more interesting things and let new money fondle itself.
Better money was on the cache of French artworks that took $108,000 at the top end with a number of other records selling in the $30,000 range. The top there was paid for Henri Charles Manguin’s (1874-1949) “Grenouillette,” a Fauvist 1921 oil on canvas featuring a reclining female nude that was painted in the artist’s home in rue Saint-James, Neuilly. The work was included in 1980 catalogue raisonné on the artist.
Schireson said a number of the French Impressionist works in the auction came from one estate, their provenances often including New York or London sales.
Moving backward we found the Impressionists. Louis Valtat’s (1869-1952) “Femme Nu Au Fauteuil Bleu,” an oil on canvas measuring 36 by 28½ inches that was painted in 1907, sold to a local member of the trade for $39,000. Slightly higher at $40,625 was Pierre Bonnard’s (1867-1947) “Figure de Jeune Femme,” among the only top French works in the sale to feature a female with any clothes on. Bonnard painted the oil on paper laid down to canvas in 1917 and it was featured in gallery exhibitions in Paris in 1957 and Hamburg in 1970. It too made an appearance in the artist’s catalogue raisonné, produced in 1974. Bonnard and Paul Sérusier (1864-1927) played key roles in the artist group Les Nabis, a group of artists currently on a posthumous American tour with the exhibition “Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, Paris, 1889-1900,” which in September came down after a two-and-a-half-month run at the Cleveland Museum of Art as it travels to Oregon to open back up again at the Portland Art Museum from October 23 to January 23. At $36,000, Sérusier’s oil on canvas portrait titled “La Rousse,” was a good one, balancing its orange-yellows (Rousse is a French term for a red-head) with a range of blues.
Among the names that Schireson could mention was Barry Tarlow, who supplied 89 lots in the sale. Tarlow was a famed defense attorney in Los Angeles who passed away in April 2021. He married Rose Tarlow, an interior designer, author and antiques dealer who rubbed off on the attorney so much that his obituary wrote, “He loved his Great Danes, collecting antiques and was an avid sports fan.”
Tarlow’s estate was led by “Red-Green,” a 1962 oil on canvas by Edward Dugmore (1915-1996) that sold for $66,000. More traditional was his selection of bronzes with Auguste Rodin’s 20-inch-tall (on base) “Victor Hugo” fetching $48,000 and Antoine-Louis Barye’s (1796-1875) “Theseus and the Minotaur,” dated 1865, selling for $30,000. A surprise from the Tarlow estate was an oil on canvas cataloged only as “Italian School,” without a visible signature, depicting a group of dogs fighting a leopard, which sold for $19,200 over a $5,000 estimate.
The firm still has about 250 to 300 lots slated for future sales from the Barlow estate.
Ansel Adams’ (1902-1984) images of Yosemite proved desirable with three lots from the same collection changing hands to a singular buyer. At $57,000 was “Clearing Winter Storm,” a 15½-by-19½-inch gelatin silver print with his signature and the Carmel studio stamp to the back. Measuring nearly the same at 18 by 14 inches was his 1960 “Moon and Half Dome, Yosemite,” which took $36,000.
In late 2021 or early 2022, Abell Auctions will offer the estate of American comedian Don Rickles.
All prices reported include buyer’s premium. For more information, www.abell.com or 323-724-8102.
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