Published: March 8, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Sarasota Estate Auctions
SARASOTA, FLA. – A Lino Tagliapietra (Italian, b 1934) “Mandara” glass vase, aswirl with color and in striking form, went to an in-house bidder for $26,460, on the second day of Sarasota Estate Auctions February 26-27 sale. The piece, which was bought by an art glass collector, was bequeathed from a private foundation to Ringling School of Art & Design. Proceeds of this sale will go to Ringling School of Art & Design tuition for students. “We were very happy with the results,” said Andrew Ford, owner. “It was fun, benefitting the Ringling School of Art & Design, for scholarships. We had a good turnout of local patrons of the Ringling and local glass collectors.”
The first day of the sale was devoted to fine art, Americana and sterling silver, while the second day focused on fine art, jewelry, art glass and Asian material. Overall, said owner Andrew Ford, the sales totaled north of $500,000. Sell-through was sluggish on day one, much stronger on day two.
Among additional art glass highlights that were bequeathed to the Ringling, a Toots Zynsky #4 fused and slumped glass sculpture in vibrant green, 10 by 18 inches, sold for $10,080. Zynsky was one of the 16 pioneering students of Pilchuck Glass School, founded north of Seattle by Dale Chihuly. Her work is included in the White House collection of American Craft and many other museums across the United States. In 2005 she was one of the first artists to have artwork commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art. In 1972, she began making sculpture from found materials, developing a technique called “filet de verre,” which uses threads of glass to create the form. Today she works from her home studio in Providence, R.I., where she creates pieces influenced by her love of historic textiles and cultures.
Zynsky’s colleague Dale Chihuly was represented in the sale by an Imperial Iris Persian glass sculpture that also had been bequeathed to the Ringling. In a vibrant lavender, the fan-like sculpture was bid to $9,450. Chihuly’s ornate glass forms are prized by collectors. He received a BA degree from the University of Washington at Seattle and an MFA in 1968 from the Rhode Island School of Design. From 1967 to 1980, he was chairman there of the department of glassblowing and in 1971 co-founded the Pilchuck Glass Center in Stanwood, Wash., near Seattle.
Both the Zynsky and Chihuly pieces went to a local art glass collector different from the buyer of the Tagliapietra. A Martin Blank (b 1962) amber Torso art glass sculpture, titled “The Holding III,” 31 by 12 inches, went to the Tagliapietra buyer, however, and took $8,505.
Fine art was led by a Karl Benjamin (American, 1925-2002) abstract oil on canvas hard edge painting titled “Blue & Orange,” 1960. Signed and dated lower right and measuring 24 by 30 inches, it earned five times its high estimate, finishing at $21,420. Exhibited at the Esther Robles Gallery, it retained gallery label verso and came from a private California collection. Benjamin was a painter of dazzling geometric abstractions who established a national reputation in 1959 as one of four Los Angeles-based Abstract Classicists and created a highly acclaimed body of work. Using a full palette and a vocabulary of stripes, squares, triangles, circles, rings and irregular shapes, he created tightly balanced compositions that seem to shimmer, vibrate or explode in space. Benjamin’s work fell out of fashion in the 1970s and 1980s, but he made an astonishing comeback in later years when his paintings suddenly looked fresh and smart to younger artists, critics and curators.
Fetching a strong $17,640 against a $1,6/2,400 estimate was a Florida Highwaymen oil on board painting by Harold Newton (1934-1994) depicting a palm tree with a house and a sailboat in the distance. The landscape artist was one of the founding members of the Florida Highwaymen, a group of entrepreneurial African American painters, mostly self-taught, who beginning in the late 1950s set about to capture Florida’s natural landscapes. Newton was influenced by the work of Florida painter A.E. Backus, depicting Florida’s coastlines and wetlands.
Highlighting Asian material, an early Chinese bronze Buddha riding a Qilin dragon, stylized with exceptional execution and measuring 8 by 7 inches, was a sleeper, swooping in to take $18,900, nearly 16 times its high estimate, from an Asian buyer. “You never know about these things,” observed Ford. “We’re always trying, if we can, to open these things up more affordably. That I knew was a sleeper. I explained to the consignor that I wanted to offer it under the money. That’s how these things really end up getting a tremendous amount of gravity. So we opened it up knowing full well it was going to do better because it was a better quality bronze. She [the consignor[ was pretty relaxed about it and said she would trust the process – and she was very pleased.”
Leading the jewelry category at $10,080 was a French diamond sapphire Art Deco necklace. Its pendant was accented with caliber cut sapphires weighing approximately 1.00 carat total, exhibiting good color and clarity, and the piece was further embellished with 46 old European cut diamonds, weighing approximately 3.25 carats of I-J color and VS2-SI2 clarity.
“The pandemic has resulted in a new funnel of clients coming to the auction,” said Ford after the sale. “They are bidding online with confidence, there’s a lot more phone bidding going on, people are actively participating in the auction the way they probably didn’t before, with more discipline and leaving bids with the computer. Now they’re hanging in there and bidding two or three more times just north of their initial final bid. People are willing and understand that they have to pay a little more for things at auction right now.”
Sarasota’s next sale is May 21-22. Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For more information, 941-359-8700 or www.sarasotaestateauction.com.
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