Published: November 22, 2016
Review and Onsite Photos by W.A. Demers, Additional Photos Courtesy Butterscotch Auction Gallery
BEDFORD, N.Y. — Estate fine art dominated a single-session auction conducted by Butterscotch Auction Gallery at Bedford Historical Hall on November 6. Headlining the sale was a mixed media on silk-lined paper of figures by a coastal residence attributed to Feng Zikai (Chinese, 1898–1975), which sold for $180,000, demolishing its $800–$1,200 presale estimate. The sale boasted more than 100 lots of American and European paintings and sculpture, but its mother lode was clearly material from a single-owner collection of mostly contemporary Chinese paintings and sculpture from the estate of Milton Gelfand, a Pound Ridge, N.Y., resident and successful audio company businessman who in the early days of Sino-United States rapprochement, mainly the 1970s–90s, was able to travel extensively around the mainland and avail himself of relatively undiscovered fine art and sculpture.
According to Brendan Ryan, Butterscotch appraiser and auctioneer, Gelfand, like many collectors, acted as patron to several of the artists, thereby outfitting his home with multiple works from each. Preceding the Feng Zikai piece in lot order but second in price, a painting of a dragonfly and chrysanthemums, mixed media on silk-lined paper, attributed to perennial favorite Qi Baishi (1864–1957), measuring 40 by 13 inches and carrying two seals of the artist, was bid to $90,000, also eclipsing an $800–$1,200 estimate. “It’s not like there’s a catalogue raisonné for these kinds of works,” explained Ryan, “and because there are fakes out there in the market, we estimate conservatively.”
A three-item lot comprising a calligraphy scroll with a large character at the center, one with two women depicted side by side and a landscape with a cottage by the sea was attracting keen interest at preview, grouped with other scrolls at a long table in the center of the hall. Again, estimated just $200/400, the trio left the block at $38,400, going to a phone bidder.
In the contemporary arena, a Taiwanese sculptor and architect who benefited from Gelfand’s largesse was Yuyu Yang (1926–1997), whose stainless steel “Advent of the Phoenix” and bronze “Taroko Gorge” further bolstered the collection’s results by each finishing at $25,200.
Another star in this sale was Xu Yanzhou (Chinese, b 1961), a realist painter from Beijing represented by six oil paintings in the sale, including “Little Mountain Village,” which also realized an above-estimate $25,200. The 47-by-39-inch oil on canvas, featured on the catalog cover for the sale, depicted a young Chinese girl in homespun dress, standing, hands behind her back, engaging the viewer with a direct and solemn gaze. The work was signed and dated 1988 lower right, titled and signed on verso with the artist’s address at the Chinese Military Museum in Beijing. Fetching $9,600 was another Xu Yanzhou oil on canvas from 1949 titled “Woman Feeding a Child,” and a seated female nude, oil on canvas, 30½ by 23 inches, achieved $14,400.
A standing female nude by Chinese artist Li Guijun (b 1961), which had received much presale interest, also stemmed from the Gelfand estate and the 40-by-24-inch oil on canvas dated 1988 reached $18,000, three times its high estimate.
By Cai Jin (Chinese, b 1965) was a pair of Surrealist still life paintings titled “Xiaotiqin (Violin),” each 27 by 25 inches, which was bid to $20,400.
Jewelry, a staple component of any estate auction, found favor as well. Leading the category was an important Cartier duck pin designed as an 18K gold walking mallard duck with dark green and orange enameling, engraved patterned gold wings and underbelly and a tiger’s-eye body. It brought $13,200.
A bidder paid $9,600 for a 6.30-carat marquise diamond engagement ring. Taking $7,200 was a 1.75-carat old European-cut engagement ring designed as a very
deep prong set, with the main diamond flanked by six .05-carat round brilliant diamonds in a 14K white gold band
Surprising to the upside in American art offered was a crisp interior scene by Alvin Ross (1920–1975). “Bayside Interior: Province Town,” oil on canvas, 30 by 24 inches, which nearly tripled the artist’s previous record, bringing $18,000.
Sometimes it is a long fuse to the ultimate fireworks. In Butterscotch’s last sale back in June, the firm’s Ryan had been excited about the prospects for a Nineteenth Century framed collection of family portrait miniatures comprising members of the houses of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and Habsburg-Lorraine. The 20-piece collection included seven miniatures by Michele Albanesi (Italian, 1816–1878), two by Andrea Piazza (Italian, 1803–1838, active in Parma) two by British artist S. Caruson and nine others, both signed and unsigned.
Expecting institutional interest in such a pristine and historical trove, the auctioneer was disappointed when the lot failed to meet its $7,000 reserve. This time was different. The trade snapped up the collection for a final price of $27,600.
All told, “it was quite a sale,” enthused Ryan. “There was tremendous turnout for all of the Asian items, and we were gratified to be able to offer the several contemporary pieces appearing for the first time at auction in the United States, and with many exceeding expectations.”
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
Butterscotch Auction Gallery’s next sale is scheduled for March 19.
For additional information, www.butterscotchauction.com or 914-764-4609.
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