Published: October 10, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by Laura Beach, Catalog Photos Courtesy Christie’s
NEW YORK CITY – Christie’s artfully composed sale of American furniture, silver, maritime, folk and Outsider art at Rockefeller Plaza on September 20 offered a taste of what is likely to be on the menu for January. The lightly reserved, 186-lot session realized $1,778,000 and was more than 90 percent sold, both by lot and value. The city awash with diplomats in town for the United Nations General Assembly and the Jewish holidays getting underway, many bidders chose to participate by absentee bid, phone and internet. The latter, projected onto an overhead screen, confirmed participation from every region of the United States. The sale drew from the Rosebrook, Warner and Blair collections, among others.
“People were happy to see in our September sale a few goodies that could be front and center at the shows in January,” Christie’s deputy chairman John Hays said.
New Orleans collector Max Foote was in the room to bid on selections of Nineteenth Century furniture from the estate of Richard J. Schwartz. Foote and his wife have what is said to be the largest private collection of furniture by Herter Brothers and are working on a book on Pottier & Stymus. The Footes claimed a Neo-Grec console made by Herter Brothers for $52,500. Retailed by Hirschl & Adler Galleries, an extraordinary elephant-foot cabinet went to the collectors for $56,250. Foote believes the cabinet to be the work of Pottier & Stymus.
The day’s top lot was the Reynell-Coates Queen Anne carved walnut compass-seat side chair, a Philadelphia example sold to Bernard & S. Dean Levy for $137,500, a good price in today’s market for a choice example. Other chairs from this set, first owned by a prominent Quaker merchant and his wife, are at Winterthur, Colonial Williamsburg and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
Christie’s cover lot was a Philadelphia Queen Anne dressing table with shell and acanthus carving on its central drawer and, unusually, a series of pierced hearts on its skirt. It made $106,250 against an estimate of $30/50,000. The dressing table was from the Rosebrook Collection, a collection formed by the late Philip and Betsey Caldwell, and can be seen in photos of the entrance hall of their New Canaan, Conn., home. The dressing table surfaced at Skinner in 2005, where it sold for $171,000. Christie’s attributed the mid-Eighteenth Century piece to Henry Clifton and Thomas Carteret, with carving by Nicholas Bernard.
Who is on Cara Zimmerman’s Outsider artist “hot” list? Try William Hawkins, Bill Traylor, Thornton Dial, Ronald Lockett, William Edmondson, George Widener, Martín Ramírez, Adolf Wölfli, Henry Darger and one the public may know less about, Judith Scott. Resembling a large cocoon, an untitled 1993 construction by Scott, a disabled artist who worked at Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, Calif., between 1987 and her death in 2005, achieved $32,500, an impressive result signaling growth in the Outsider market.
“This is the second piece by Miss Scott that we have offered and, as far as we know, this was a record price,” Christie’s specialist in American folk and Outsider art told us. “Scott’s pieces are famously tactile. You are drawn to them. For me to have included a female Outsider who commands such attention was a treat.”
Two works on paper by Bill Traylor headed the sales of Outsider art, with the circa 1940 “Two Women in Orange, Two Men in Blue” bringing $75,000. The smaller, simpler “Woman Pointing” garnered $37,500.
“The first is exceptionally large for an artist who generally worked on a smaller scale. The second is interesting in that it is on the reverse side of a candy bar poster. That sort of thing is sought after in Traylor’s works because it gives a sense of the time and place in which the artist and work are grounded.”
Zimmerman noted interest in a large, mixed-media construction, $43,750, by James Castle, an artist known, the specialist said, “for his wonderful modern aesthetic. These constructions are all about assembling and building. They have a contemporary feeling. This piece was a section of a wall from his Idaho home. You can see how he was able to transfer to three dimension what he drew.”
The end of summer means pulling the boat out of the water or, in this case, putting the maritime art up for auction. From the Westervelt Company and the Rosebrook collection came roughly three dozen ship carvings, ship models, carved eagles and marine paintings.
“If there was a little softness, it was in the Jacobsens,” said Hays, otherwise pleased with sales of “Bombardment of Fort Fisher” by Thomas F. Laycock, $75,000; a carved and painted eagle plaque with an 82½-inch wingspan, $62,500; and a figurehead of a woman, $52,500, most likely by Philadelphia carver William Rush. Of the figure, Zimmerman said, “It’s a lovely, elegant piece, the work of a very sophisticated carver. For me, it’s all about that drapery, the way the fabric clings to the body of the figure and is so delicate.”
As for January, Hays said Christie’s has been offered four Philadelphia side chairs from the order that included the Edwards-Harrison Family pier table, sold by Christie’s in January 1990 for $4.62 million, a record for Philadelphia furniture at auction.
“Just from a discovery point of view, it’s very exciting. The carving on the knees, which matches that on the table, is quite beautiful,” said Hays, who was still working out the estimates.
Christie’s will also reoffer an engraved dial Newport block and shell carved tall clock by James Wady. It, too, set a record when Christie’s auctioned it for $442,500 in January 2000.
Outsider highlights for January include selections from a Chicago collection formed by Marjorie and Harvey Freed. “They were in the field early, bought directly from the artists as well as from top dealers, and were founders of the Intuit museum,” Zimmerman said. The specialist is also making a concerted effort to offer more European material. “It is very strong in the gallery world and should have greater presence in the auction market.”
Prices include buyer’s premium.
Christie’s is at 20 Rockefeller Plaza. For further information, www.christies.com or 212-636-2000.
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