Published: September 29, 2020
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers
MILFORD, CONN. – Despite the absence of live attendees, Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers’ September 17 sale was “the best sale we have had in years,” managing partner Sandra Germain told Antiques and The Arts Weekly. The 229-lot sale achieved a total of more than $3.3 million, with more than 82 percent of lots selling. Numerous clients took advantage of ten days of by-appointment previews or Facetime calls with specialists and the auction house welcomed numerous clients who had never previously bid – or bought – from them before. Twenty phone lines, manned by socially distanced staffers on the day of the sale, fielded more than 500 calls that competed with active online bidding to generate strong results and stretched the sale to nearly four hours.
Germain was effusive, commenting, “We are thrilled with the results of the sale – the long-anticipated offering of the Berry Collection finally came to fruition as well as many other works we have been holding since April. We had strong results across the board and have many happy consignors.”
She was referring to the sale of abstract expressionist art from the Jeanne and Carroll Berry Collection. Jeanne Berry had an active part in the consignment process, telling stories about the works that she and her late husband had collected. “The collection included works by 16 of the original ‘Irascible Eighteen.’ The Berrys knew ‘advanced art’ when they saw it and collected works by this leading group of Abstract Expressionist artists ahead of the trend. It was a real pleasure being able to work with someone who had such a stake in the collection, and to see it do so well,” Germain said.
The estimates for the Berry collection were $440/640,000 and with buyer’s premium, the collection achieved $662,000. Of the 22 lots offered, 11 exceeded their high estimates, which Germain said was “a testament to the quality of the works offered.”
The results did not disappoint and listeners could feel the competition as auctioneer Peter Coccoluto fielded bids from the phones. Leading the group was Adolph Gottlieb’s, “Untitled #30,” from 1970 that sold for $162,500 to a phone bidder against multiple other phone bidders, exceeding its estimate. The work had provenance to the Andre Emmerich Gallery, M. Knoedler & Co., and Sotheby’s, and had been exhibited at the Georgia Museum of Art in 2017.
Two lots later, Jackson Pollock’s “Untitled” from 1952-56 sold to a private collector for $112,500. It had provenance to the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and is featured in the catalogue raisonné for the artist. The exhibition history included a 2000 exhibition at the Joan T. Washburn Gallery in New York City, a 2007 exhibition at the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, as well as at the Georgia Museum of Art in 2017.
Other notable sales from the Berry collection include Mark Rothko’s, “Untitled” from 1968 that sold for $78,000 to an American buyer. An assistant in Rothko’s studio had owned the work prior to its handling by the Gertrude Kasle Gallery in Detroit, Mich., which preceded its sale at Christie’s in 2000. Like many of the works in the Berry collection, it had also been exhibited at the Ackland Art Museum and the Georgia Museum of Art.
A pair of Hedda Sterne drawings set a new record at $13,750. Sterne is the only female painter in the Irascibles, and Germain said that competition for her work was “aggressive.” Harry Weldon Kees, whose work has never before been offered at auction, sold for $8,750. And, the cover lot, a work on paper by Richard Pousette-Dart sold for $37,500.
Records were also set for artists outside the Berry collection. Antonio Cirino’s “For Sale” set a record at Shannon’s in 2005 and when offered in this sale, sold for $23,750, a new record for the artist. Other records were set for Carl Schmitt, whose “Peace” brought $5,940; Priscilla Roberts’ “Home to Thanksgiving” achieved $7,150; and Robert J. Wolff’s abstract “Bayside, Wellfleet,” sailed to $10,630.
A painting done by George Bellows (American, 1882-1925) during his time in Woodstock, N.Y., sold for $106,250 after enthusiastic bidding from five phone bidders. Dated October 1922, the oil on panel had descended in the family of the artist before it was acquired by H.V. Allinson and Co.; the work is recorded in the artist’s book of paintings as well as in the online version of the catalogue raisonné being prepared by Glenn C. Peck.
“We had lots of activity from museums nationwide,” Germain told us. One example of that was Charles Burchfield’s “Steel Mill Homes,” which sold to the Muskegon Museum of Art in Muskegon, Mich., for $75,000. It had provenance to both Harry Spiro and Kennedy Galleries, both of New York City and exhibitions at the Kevorkian Gallery in New York City, the University of Arizona in Tucson and the Munson Williams Proctor Institute Museum of Art in Utica, N.Y.
Charles Ethan Porter’s “Peonies” was, according to Germain, the most popular work presale, with extensive interest from both institutions and private collectors. Ten phone bidders were lined up to compete for the work, which ended up leading the Nineteenth Century American Art category when it sold to a California institution for $55,000.
Notable sales in European art include Montague Dawson’s yachting scene, “The Needles,” that sold for $93,750 and “Young Woman in Blue” by Hugues Merle realized $50,000. Modern European art did well with a collage from Kurt Schwitter’s Merz series selling for $50,000 to a buyer in Germany; a view of the Champs-Elysees by Jean Dufy closed at $57,500 and Marie Laurencin’s, “Jeune Femme,” tripled the low estimate and brought $45,000 with international bidder participation. A painting by contemporary British artist, Patrick Hughes, found a new home on the West Coast for $45,000.
American Impressionism was led by Charles Courtney Curran’s “Wind on the Cliff,” a sweeping summery view from a cliff with two young women, probably the artist’s daughter and a family friend, that sold for $100,000 to a private collector. The 30-by-40-inch oil on canvas board summery work had been owned by the artist’s daughter, the collection of Kaycee Benton Thompson and the Ronald Berg collection, and exhibited at the New York Society of Painters in 1931, the Lotos Club Summer Exhibit in 1939 and the Allied Artists’ Association in 1940.
Other highlights in this category include “Woman in a Silk Robe” by Frederick Carl Frieseke that typified his oeuvre and sold for $57,500, the same price achieved by Guy Carleton Wiggins’ “Winter at the Library.”
A regionalist work of the Louisiana rice fields by Thomas Hart Benton, “Threshing Rice” sold for $87,500. “Winter Stream” by Southwestern artist Victor Higgins quadrupled the low estimate selling for $40,000 to a buyer in New Mexico. The sale featured three paintings by New England artist Eric Sloane, led by “Last Hay of the Season,” a large 24-by-36-inch painting that sold for $47,500.
Prints were led by Picasso’s “Le Repas Frugal,” one of the artist’s first print compositions, that sold for $100,000. “Signs,” a Robert Rauschenberg silkscreen with iconic figures from the 1960s, topped off at $27,500, and a group of prints commissioned for the Jimmy Carter inauguration fund sold to a museum collection for $30,000.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
Shannon’s next sale is scheduled for November 19.
Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers is at 49 Research Drive. For information, 203-877-1711 or www.shannons.com.
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