Published: April 4, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by Andrea Valluzzo, Catalog Photos Courtesy Cottone Auctions
GENESEO, N.Y. — Some auctioneers have a sweet spot where they like to place their expected top lot, some offer it as the very first lot across the block or as the 100th item, and the best lots are usually scattered throughout a sale to sustain interest over the duration. Cottone Auctions’ March 25 sale defied easy categorization though, as the entire first hour of the sale saw a steady parade of heavy-hitters cross the block, including the top lot, with most pieces selling way above estimate.
The sale kicked off with paintings, with a few pieces of Midcentury Modern furniture and lighting sprinkled in. First across the block were three paintings by Tetsuo Ochikubo (1923–75), consigned from a private upstate New York institution, which set the tone for the auction when they went over high estimate, a pattern that would be repeated throughout the day. An untitled 40-by-50-inch work by the Japanese American artist was first up at $7,705 followed by “Uninitiate,” that the same phone bidder acquired for $17,250, well over its $3/5,000 estimate. A third painting sold to a different phone bidder for $2,530.
Also attracting vigorous bidding early in the sale was a group of five oil paintings by Joseph Floch that were acquired directly from the estate of the Vienna-born artist, who settled in Paris and then in New York in 1941, by a private upstate New York institution. “Women & Children” left its $7/10,000 estimate in the dust, bringing $37,950 and was immediately followed by the most coveted painting in the group, “Table Round, 1929,” which quintupled its high estimate to attain $43,700. Bringing $36,800 each were “Penthouse Terrace, 1942” and “Man & Dog,” 1928. A small untitled work took $9,775.
Next up was lot 13, renowned British sculptor Henry Moore’s maquette for “Draped Reclining Figure,” whose diminutive stature (4 by 6½ inches, excluding the base) belied its import and the big price it would fetch here.
Phone bidding was hot and heavy, with six to seven phones chasing the bronze piece that had a pleasing green patina, and opened for bidding at $85,000. The price kept climbing and near $140,000, it was down to just two phone bidders going head to head with neither showing signs of faltering. Ultimately one did though and the winner, a private collector in the United Kingdom who has other Moore pieces in his collection, prevailed with a $170,000 bid for a total of $195,500 with the buyer’s premium.
“It was our first live sale of 2017 and the interest and participation levels were off the charts for each category straight through and that comes down to the merchandise in the end,” said Matt Cottone. “We had a sale where probably 95 percent of the lots were fresh to the market and unreserved and that always creates a lot of excitement.”
Among those sharing the excitement at the sale was Michelle Rudnicki, who drove about an hour from her home in Buffalo, to come to an auction here for the first time. She said several of the paintings are what drew her to the sale, “It’s fun to see if we can get a bargain.” Tony Simonetti of Rochester is a regular to the auctions here, noting, “I just enjoy coming to Sam’s auctions.”
The Moore came out of the Seymour H. Knox II collection, which supplied many of the top art lots in this sale. Described as the “dean of America art patrons,” Knox, who headed several leading American companies, including Marine Midland Bank, the F.W. Woolworth Company, New York Central Railroad, dedicated himself to art and philanthropy. President of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy Board in 1938, he and like-minded patrons provided the inaugural donations for the Room for Contemporary Art, which helped acquire Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure,” the first work by the sculptor to join the collection of an American art museum. Knox helped the museum add many more top works to its collection, and after an addition to house these works was built and dedicated in 1962, it was officially renamed the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Another standout in the sale immediately followed the Moore, a freeform Conoid bench by George Nakashima that had been purchased directly from Nakashima and stayed in an Ithaca, N.Y., family’s collection until this sale. It fetched $49,450, nearly double its high estimate.
Other highlights that came out of the Knox collection included Sir Alfred James Munning’s oil on cradle board, “Study of a Hound,” at $29,325 and a pair of watercolors by Ernst Wilhelm Nay with the sunny-hued “Composition” taking $17,250 and an untitled 1955 work at $18,440.
A total of seven Tiffany table lamps crossed the block one after another, together totaling more than $284,000. The top lot was a signed Tiffany Studios Greek Key lamp having a pleasing brownish-green patina, while the runner-up at $80,500 was a choice Dragonfly table lamp, 1945, that had been bought from the original owner of the Rocheleau estate, Michigan.
Among the biggest surprises of the day were a Nineteenth Century boulle and gilt-bronze desk set with inkwells and a letter clip, estimated at a mere $300/500 that made $47,150 and a carved marble mantel, early Nineteenth Century, that had a broken top mantel in need of repair so it was conservatively estimated at $1,5/2,500. The mantel had more of a period look than neoclassical and bidders drove the price to $15,525.
The French aesthetic was well represented in the auction, including a monumental French Napoleon III gilt-bronze mantel clock with cherubs and a P. Ltre movement that earned $35,650, well over its estimate.
Folky offerings and Americana closed out the auction, including a William Matthew Prior portrait of a young girl at $39,675, more than double its high estimate; and a carved and painted carousel figure of an elephant, probably Charles Looff, 35 inches tall, at $27,600, more than triple its high estimate.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.cottoneauctions.com or 585-243-1000.
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