Published: September 6, 2022
Review by Z.G. Burnett, Photos Courtesy Ahlers & Ogletree
ATLANTA, GA. – Ahlers & Ogletree hosted a marathon three-day sale with its August Fine Estates & Collections Auction from August 25 to 27, presenting more than 1,200 lots. The three sessions were divided categorically: Session 1 focused on Asian and ethnographic arts, Session 2 combined Midcentury Modern art and design with jewelry and silver, and Session 3 listed period antiques and fine art. The buy-through rate of the sales was 94 percent, with $1,417,865 in overall sales.
The top lot of the first session and of all three sales was also the largest, a four-piece monumental series of oil on canvas panels titled “Balinese Dancers.” Painted by I Nyoman Gunarsa, the painting showed women in various dancing poses in the foreground and background, creating an illusion of motion. Dancers, musicians and religious figures are frequent subjects in Gunarsa’s work, and he is known for his colorful depictions of performers. The painting came from the collection of Veronica Holmes, a consignor who recently moved out of the country and whose collection will be spanning three estate auctions with Ahlers & Ogletree. It sold to an online bidder for $20,000.
Animal art was popular in the first and second sessions of the sale, with three of the highest selling lots featuring four-legged creatures. A pair of monumental lions measuring 58 inches tall lorded over this session, going to an online bidder for $18,750. The lions were Aspen Art cast bronze, which no doubt added to their intimidating appeal. Another monumental top lot was an 18-light iron and bronze “Verona” chandelier from the Naos Forge, also intended for a proportionally large estate at 88 inches in length and 80 inches in diameter, which hoisted up $11,875 ($2/4,000).
Following the lions in second place was “Untitled (SF-78)” by Sam Francis, an abstract monotype acrylic and mixed media composition on laid paper that sold for $18,600. Works on paper by Francis have been popular of late, with more than a dozen selling in other regional auctions in August alone. Another one of his untitled lithographs “(SF-296)” also sold during the second session for $3,750 ($1/3,000), and each of them came from the Holmes collection.
The second-highest lot of the first session was a pair of Chinese blue and white porcelain vases decorated with male figures and bats, in a fengweizun or “phoenix tail” form, that sold for $18,600 and multiplied their $1/2,000 estimate. These came from an estate in Ponte Vedra, Fla., and were bought from International Art Properties of Atlanta, Ga., in 1981. Bats were a frequent motif; a Chinese famille rose charger painted with bats and peaches sold for $9,680, also far exceeding its $500/700 estimate. These bats are painted in the lucky color red, representing happiness and joy in some Chinese traditions.
Another large-scale sale was a wooden door from Tibet, painted with a guardian spirit holding a tiger on a chain against a celestial background. The arresting image is vividly painted and retained its red-painted doorframe with hardware and sold online for $17,500. Like the “Balinese Dancers” and the Sam Francis painting, the door also came from the expansive Holmes collection.
Fourth in the second sale was a charming bronze sculpture of a turtle holding an umbrella, accompanied by a frog and a lizard, cast by Alabama artist Frank Fleming (1940-2018). Known for his whimsical bronzes of animals, Fleming’s work is present in many prominent American institutions and as public art. Fleming suffered from a severe speech impediment for most of his early life, using art as the best way to express himself. After being unable to find work as an art teacher following college, Fleming worked as a draftsman for NASA. He was later part of the 1970s funk art movement in California, then began casting in bronze in the 1980s. This amphibian and reptile grouping moved along for $13,750.
Decorative art was strong in the third session of the sale, with the top lot bridging the gap between fine art and décor. A trompe l’oeil painted secretary bookcase in the style of Fernand Renard (French, 1912-1990) sold online for $15,000 ($800-$1,600), its only identifier being “Made In Italy” on a rear label. Even more difficult to perceive properly in a photo, the untidy open drawers and disorganized desktop painted on the slant front opens to a painted writing surface, and the top cabinet showing a collection of objects similarly reveals shelving with carved swag accents inside with more trompe l’oeil paintings on the interior of the doors.
More stylistically straightforward was the second sale in this session, a bronze and marble table from the former Bank of Italy, now the Bank of America. The table’s legs are decorated with six sphinxlike caryatids, terminating in paw feet and supported by crossing stretchers with rosettes at the joins. The table was acquired for the bank by its president, Amadeo P. Giannini, and was in the bank’s San Francisco location for many years. The table sold to an internet bidder for $11,250.
Of the handful of portraits present in the third session, a half-length likeness of Lord Fielding by Nathaniel Hone the Elder from the Eighteenth Century took top billing at $10,000. Hone was an Irish-born portrait painter who moved to London as a young man, his marriage to a daughter of the Duke of Argyll being a shoehorn into the world of aristocratic commissions. His miniatures and portraits are in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery in London. The subject of this portrait is one Lord Fielding, and the painting was bought from the estate of T. Hon. Viscount Fielding of Newnham Paddox, Rugby, U.K., in 1968. It was then consigned to this sale from a Ponte Vedra, Fla., estate.
Another English artist was represented by multiple lots in the sale, Sarah Stone (1760-1844), who signed her work with the surname Smith after her marriage. Although she was known well enough in London’s art market to receive multiple commissions, the subject matter she was allowed to render was limited by content and her own reach as a woman in the Eighteenth Century. Unlike John James Audubon, who traveled broadly to hunt and pose the birds that he painted, Stone worked from skins brought to her by men returning from exotic locales, never having seen these birds alive. Four such watercolors by Stone were offered in this sale, including a “Sparrow Hawk” that flew the highest at $5,445.
Prices quoted with buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Ahlers & Ogletree’s Fall Fine Estates & Collections Auction will take place on October 28-29. For more information, www.aandoauctions.com or 404-869-2478.
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