Published: December 20, 2016
Review and Onsite Photos by Catherine J. Sykes, Catalog Photos Courtesy Slotin Auctions
BUFORD, GA. – Slotin Auctions conducted its 24th year of biannual folk art auctions, culminating in a November 12-13 auction of “folk art masterpieces.” Each April and November, Steve and Amy Slotin put on an amazing display of folk art, and they do it in grand Southern style.
They’ve developed quite a following of folk art enthusiasts after managing a folk art festival and the auctions for years. The festival lost its home a few years ago and now the Slotins’ focus is on the two 1,000-plus-lot auctions that consistently top $1 million each. This sale had 661 lots the first day and 459 on the second day for a total of 1,120 lots.
Although they are just a staff of two year-round, auction day brings out more helpers: two auctioneers, eight runners, two ring-men, two on computers, eight manning the phones and more for a total of 30 workers. Although Steve is a licensed auctioneer, he is not a bid caller and floated everywhere, while his wife Amy sat, handwriting a hard copy, just in case. The two auctioneers were Larry Troutman, who has been with Slotin since the beginning, and Tony McCasli, a young, fast talking, Southern auctioneer. The two would switch out calling duties every few hundred lots. They averaged 75 lots per hour on the first day when prices were higher and took longer to reach the end.
The auction started with 114 lots of pottery, mostly face jugs, but a few snakes, animals and roosters were included for good measure. Tops among face jugs was one made by Lanier Meaders featuring rare china plate teeth, circa 1960s, and originally purchased from a Smithsonian show in Washington, D.C. With a fine drip glaze and in mint condition at 8½ inches tall, the jug went for $2,880.
The top lot overall was an 8½-by-11-inch Bill Traylor work, “Purple and Green Man with Umbrella,” circa 1940, unsigned, which sold for $73,200. Although not a record for Traylor at a Slotin Auction, Steve reported, “The price was strong and consistent with other prices for a piece this size.” Steve went on to tell the Traylor story, “Bill Traylor was born into slavery in 1853 in Alabama. During the ten years before he died a homeless man or sometimes living with family, he created approximately 1,500 pieces of folk art – selling cardboard sketches on street corners for five and ten cents.” During the 1940s, Charles Shannon developed a show of his works celebrating his genius and made him into the man now known as the “poster child” of the folk art world.
Second highest price was for a William Hawkins, (1895-1980) titled “Yellow Stegosaurus,” a signed oil on board. The image is 48 by 48 inches, and as with most antiques and art, provenance always helps, and this piece was no exception and could be found in a full-page illustration in Ricco/Maresca’s William Hawkins. Starting at $6,500, it quickly climbed to sell at the low estimate of $30,000.
The third highest price of the day was for another Bill Traylor, work, “Preacher…Hat…Beard…Cheeks,” dated 1939. Crayon over pencil on found cardstock, again, with strong provenance: Charles Shannon, Mr and Mrs Joseph Wilkinson, and the Angus Whyte Gallery, D.C. But with this smaller image of 5½ by 9½ inches, framed to show both sides, it garnered just within estimate at $27,600.
Sam Doyle was another favorite artist bringing in good prices. “School Gal” led the way at $20,400, followed by “Annunciation” at $11,400 and “Shepherds” at $10,800.
A Slotin favorite was a carved and polychrome wooden post by Charlie Willeto (1897-1964), 25 inches tall. Featuring a figure with squash blossom necklace, circa 1961-64, with a long provenance dancing around New Mexico and the Southwest, this more traditional piece brought $4,320.
Quite topical in the news lately is the issue of gender bathroom use. The audience got a laugh when two sideshow signs: “Strange Girls” and “Unusual People” sold for $1,800 against an estimate of $500/800. Circa 1960s-70s, paint on board, these fun, bright colored signs were in good condition, each one measuring close to 4 feet high.
Not in the folk art genre but doing well on the block were Asian antiques. An incredible carved, red and gilt wardrobe with mirror brought $1,200. One very interesting item offered on the second day was an early and large Chinese, street sign, heavily carved and inlaid, that realized $3,120.
Amy Slotin said there were more than 7,300 registered bidders on Live Auctioneers and more than 150,000 page views. Steve confirmed there was a full house with 200 numbers issued and about 300 total people, including a group of about 20 folks who arrived by bus from the Inuit Art Society in Chicago.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.slotinfolkart.com or 770-532-1115.
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