Published: May 19, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy William A. Smith, Inc.
PLAINFIELD, N.H. – It was out of character for auctioneer Bill Smith to sell in an online only format as he did with his May 9 auction of 488 lots at William A Smith, Inc. The auctioneer has a reputation for the exact opposite of an online-only sale, with a nearly unwavering history of actively eschewing the platforms in favor of bidders in every seat and active bidding throughout the gallery. Not only was that model untenable on May 9, but it was unlawful, and Smith transitioned with ease and grace into the online bidding platforms, in addition to phone and absentee, that would make do for the time being.
“I stomached it,” he said, “because it was necessary. We’re all making changes to figure out a way to operate in this climate.”
Smith had on certain occasions sold online in the past and was familiar with the mechanics. His firm picked it up easily as it offered the estates of the late Dori Coggins of Siesta Key, Fla., a one-time New York City socialite; and that of Robert Raley, an art collector who lived most of his life in Delaware. Between those two estates and a handful of other small consignments, the auction would produce $456,000.
Coggins’ Siesta Key home was decorated in an Asian midcentury style. She was known to rub shoulders with furniture designers Philip and Kelvin LaVerne, who helped popularize that aesthetic, as well as Milo Baughman. Leading the LaVerne offerings was an “Oriental Marriage Whirl” bronze and pewter coffee table that sold for $5,400. A trapezoidal hand-sculpted bronze and enamel wall plaque, titled “Adam and Eve,” by the designers would sell for $4,500 on a $1,200 estimate. A nine-piece sectional sofa in orange upholstery by Baughman would produce $4,200. Leading her estate’s consignment at $7,800 was a Paul Evans for Directional “Cityscape” chrome-plated steel king-size bed with silver reflective bed coverings to match.
Riley’s estate produced the top two lots in the sale, led by a 15-by-24-inch oil on canvas from Russian/French artist Leopold Survage (1879-1968), titled “Paysage,” that blew away its $3,000 high estimate to catch $53,100. Eight phone bidders from the United States, London and Germany vied for the lot before it sold to a buyer in Texas. The painting had exhibition history, sporting labels from the San Francisco Museum, Smith College Museum of Art and Moderne Gallerie Thannhauser.
Behind at $13,200 was a blue and red ballpoint pen drawing by Jean DuBuffet, titled “Personnage S.I.” and dated ’63. Raley acquired it at Sotheby’s in 1972, and bidders volleyed the 8¼-by-5¼-inch work for 19 bids before it hammered down at over double estimate.
There were a number of other good lots in the sale, including two carved jade vessels that popped on their $500 estimate to bring $8,400.
Two silver flutes were desirable, including a $7,800 result for a 28-inch-long example marked “Brannen-Cooper Brogger Mekanik, 1827, London.” The other, which took $4,500, was marked “Verne Q. Powell Boston” and measures 28½ inches.
When asked on how the sale performed against expectations, Smith replied, “It did about 50 percent better. I was impressed. With the midcentury offerings, we found more parties online for this type of thing than we might in our traditional format. We had people from California and all over.”
Smith’s next sale is on June 6, and he noted that he will offer a Matisse ink sketch from the Raley estate that just returned freshly authenticated.
All prices reported include buyer’s premium. For information, www.wsmithauction.com or 603-675-2549.
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