Published: January 6, 2004
– Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum deaccessioned more than 300 objects representing the remainder of its collection on November 8, in order to further the Ridgefield, Conn.-based museum’s mission of exhibiting the work of living artists. The space where the collection was housed is being converted into exhibition space.
The museum chose auctioneers Bob and Sallie Connelly, who have been holding auctions in Binghamton for more than 30 years. They agreed to sell all rdf_Descriptions and not just “cherry pick” a selective few. Held at the Showplace at Binghamton Plaza, there was ample room inside the former Grand Union to exhibit large-scale canvases, sculptures and constructions. The entire museum collection, sold without reserves, was augmented with about 50 pieces of art from Larry Aldrich’s estate as well as a group of 27 rdf_Descriptions from a corporate collection in Cleveland, rumored to be TRW.
Before the auction, the museum contacted living artists whose work was to be deaccessioned to learn if they wanted it back at no charge. Lawyers for the Aldrich estate also took into account the two mid-1960s constructions by Ronald Mallory that contained mercury and required a release from the purchasers. The Aldrich estate allowed artists to purchase their work before the auction at a value estimated by a professional appraiser.
There was something for everyone interested in cutting edge art of the last 50 years – Minimalism, Op Art, Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism or Neo-Geo. Dealers from New York City, collectors from Southern California, professors from Cornell and galleries from France, Brussels, Greece and Italy either attended the sale, left order bids or made bids by phone. The Connellys and their staff handled all these bids so patiently that the sale of the last lot came more than six hours after the opening bid at noon. Unless otherwise indicated, all prices reported include the buyer’s premium of ten percent.
The top lot of the sale was from Larry Aldrich’s personal collection. A small, unique welded steel sculpture, “La Poule,” 1956, by César (César Baldaccini, 1921-1999) brought $23,100 from a collector in the room who competed with a phone bidder from Europe.
Sculpture from the 1960s was particularly popular with the bidders. Suspended from the ceiling near the auctioneer’s podium a 1966 minimalist sculpture by Bill Bollinger measuring 2 by 1301/2 by 2 inches that reached $5,940. The same buyer purchased Gary Kuehn’s 1966 sculpture “White with Cream Insert” for $2,310. A phone bidder from England bought Justin Knowles’s 1966 work for $1,310.
Other pieces from the 1960s that did well were the two drawings by John Altoon, a sculpture by Mario Ceroli selling for $2,420 to a European phone bidder and a small typical Ludwig Sander, 1961, sold for $2,420. A Tony Delap metal and canvas construction, “Magpie,” 1963, was possibly the buy of the afternoon, selling for $550.
A Salvador Dali portfolio of 12 hand colored, numbered prints from “After 50 Years of Surrealism” from the museum collection brought $6,600, while the price paid for a single Dali lithograph of “Three Graces” from the Cleveland corporate collection was $1,420. The difference in price for the two signed Chagall posters of Nice showed the importance a date can make. Approximately the same size, one image, signed and dated 1977 sold for $3,300 and the other signed, but not dated went for $715.
Unusual at an art auction was a 1985 Chrysler LeBaron Convertible in excellent condition with only 10,300 original miles on it. In 1995 the Aldrich commissioned Joel Otterson to decorate Larry Aldrich’s personal car for an exhibition at the museum. The artist covered the body of the car with images of his Kentucky garden in colorful 3M vinyl graphics. It sold for $4,840.
The alphabetical listing of artists in the catalog included well-known names and lesser-known names along with a handful of unknowns. There was considerable interest in the 1986 wood construction by Alexander Liberman, which ended up selling to a phone bidder for $3,080. The purchase of “Madrigal for H. H. Williams,” a 1977 painting by unknown artist, Kate Resek, provided an opportunity to buy a museum quality painting for less than $220.
The artist of a metal sculpture with electronic works inside a Plexiglas sphere was unknown at the time the catalog was printed. A knowledgeable agent for a West Coast collector recognized the 1966 piece and bought it for a nominal price.
The Connellys did a good job promoting the sale and news of the sale reached as far as Australia. There were six previews, an article appeared in The New York Times and ads were placed in Antiques and the Arts Weekly. Both Harry Philbrick, museum director, and Richard Klein, assistant director, from the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum attended the sale. Following the sale, Philbrick said, “The sale went very well, and we are very, very pleased.” The total hammer price for the sale came in at about $75,000 with individual pieces selling between $50 and $21,000.
“We received a little bit more than we thought,” continued Philbrick. Proceeds from the sale will be used to support the Aldrich’s exhibition program.
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