Published: December 3, 2019
Review by Anne Kugielsky, Photos Courtesy Dallas Auction Gallery
DALLAS – “There was a lot of romance in this auction, and lots of bidding,” Scott Shuford, owner of Dallas Auction Gallery (DAG), said after the November 20 evening sale. With collections ranging from blackamoors from Derrill Osborn (of Neiman Marcus men’s clothing fame) to Aboriginal and Native art from the SMU-Taos campus being sold to benefit scholarship programs, there was active bidding in the auction which totaled over $1 million and recorded an 86 percent sell through rate.
“There was a large crowd in house,” Shuford said, “something you don’t see as much with internet being so strong. It was fun selling to a crowd.” The internet did play a big role, as did phone bidding. In fact, when a 1973 synthetic polymer paint on composition board by the Australian Aboriginal artist Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri (1926-2002) sold for $93,750, it was to a phone bidder. “We had a woman calling from outside the US who really wanted the artwork, but her phone was giving her trouble so she couldn’t get her bid in – we tried to wait, but she gave up.”
Some of the other aboriginal works, including “Untitled (Artist’s Stories)” attributed to Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra, also sold to phone bidders. Like the other Aboriginal works, Native turquoise jewelry, rugs and pottery, it was from the SMU-Taos campus collection, which had been donated to the school decades ago. “When we got the word out about the aboriginal art and Native American objects from the SMU collection, we were inundated by interested collectors worldwide,” Shuford said.
The provenance for the Tjapaltjarri work was similar to all the Aboriginal works offered. From the Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs Argyle Arts Centre (Tjapaltjarri was chairman from the 1970s to the 1980s), to a Sydney, Australia, private collection to the SMU-Taos campus collection. The 36-by-48-inch work came with an estimate of $8/12,000 and was one of several works from the collection being sold to benefit scholarships.
It was a piece more familiar to US collectors, which also embodied the romance of the Old West, that was the top lot of the auction: Frederic Remington’s “The Rattlesnake,” bronze, original cast #36 by Roman Bronze Works, won the top position when it sold at $125,000. Modeled in 1905, and reworked three years later, the posthumous cast is circa 1914; provenance includes Richard M. Nesbitt, New York, Amon G. Carter and the Amon Carter Museum, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, and a private Dallas collection.
Other Aboriginal works drew competitive bidding. Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra (1932-1993) was one of the founders of the Papunya Artists Cooperative in the early 1970s, and he often painted dream-like visions, which became highly sought after. His “Women’s Corroboree” (a corroboree is a dance ceremony that can take the form of a ritual event) is painted in synthetic polymer paint on composition board mounted on plywood, 1972. Inscribed verso, “Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra,” it bears the label for Aboriginal Art from Papunya, Central Australia. It came up with an estimate of $7/9,000 but realized $46,875.
A second painting attributed to Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra garnered more than 40 bids on its way from opening at $1,000 to ending at $17,500. The “Untitled (Artist’s Stories),” synthetic polymer paint on composition board, 1973, 21 by 18 inches, is inscribed verso with the size, date and Papunya Tula Artists catalog number, (J)P730635, but was unsigned. Its provenance, like most in the SMU-Taos collection, was directly from the artists collective to the collector and to SMU-Taos.
An untitled work by Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936), “Untitled, (The Pottery Decorator),” sold for $62,500. The 24-by-29 oil on canvas, circa 1930 and signed lower left, “E.I. Couse,” was authenticated by Virginia Couse Leavitt, founder of the Couse Foundation and will be included in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work.
Another oil on canvas with a Native American motif and from the SMU-Taos collection, Paul Strisik’s (1918-1998) “Taos Pueblo” oil on canvas, 30 by 40 inches, sold above its high estimate at $7,500.
The West is shrouded in mystery and romance, and with artists who work in traditional mediums like weavings, pottery and jewelry. DAG’s auction was filled with such items. A regal Santa Clara blackware vessel, with carved geometric design to shoulders, by Margaret Tafoya (1904-2011), matriarch of Santa Clara Pueblo potters, sold at $7,500; a Twentieth Century Two Grey Hills rug, with central diamond medallion and linear geometric border, 78½ by 53½ inches, had 25 bids before closing above its $1/1,500 estimate to an internet bidder for $3,437; and a Zuni Indian silver and turquoise squash blossom necklace, having a large naja (6 inches), accented by turquoise clusters with a silver blossom, circa mid-Twentieth Century, sold at $2,500.
A series of works by American artist William Acheff (b 1947), known for the illusory qualities and lifelike perfection of his classic trompe l’oeil paintings, had provenance to the Prix de West Exhibition and Sale. His “Good Smoke,” oil on canvas, sold at $25,000; “Harmony,” oil on canvas, went to $18,750; and “Family Colors,” oil on canvas, brought $13,750. All were signed and dated 2011, and all sold within estimates. His realistic compositions often reflect the distinctive influences of Native American cultures and of the Southwest, where he makes his home.
Another collection in the auction was also replete with many lots. Shuford said the estate of venerable icon of international fashion Derrill Osborn of Dallas was unbelievable. “He used to collect cows – anything connected with cows,” and after some time doing that, he sold some of that collection. Osborn once described his estate as “a little Oriental here, a little French thrown in there, red and green, and a whole lot of cows.” From Osborn’s estate, a Black Forest figural group, depicting a bull, cow and calf raised atop a scrolling base, circa late/early Nineteenth Century, exceeded high estimate at $3,125.
“Then he began to collect blackamoors [a European art style from the Early Modern period depicting highly stylized figures, usually African males]. He had more blackamoors than I have ever seen,” Shuford said. Topping all of the lots of blackamoors was an elaborate Venetian carved polychrome wood console table, the shaped faux marble top covered with a faux drapery and hanging tassel pendants, with a standing blackamoor figure, realized $5,312. A pair of blackamoor polychrome wood end tables, with figural standard in blue and gilt garb raising a shaped faux marble top overhead, early Nineteenth Century, sold above their $800/1,200 estimate at $2,500. A patinated and polychrome metal blackamoor pedestal, 40½ inches high and adorned with beaded bone jewelry and feather skirt, flanked by roped bells went for the same amount.
Rounding out the diverse, almost 400-lot auction, were a variety of lots. A Mexican Colonial polychrome carved wood figure, depicting the Virgin Mary, with an upward gaze and raised on a round wood base ($2,500); an Acoma vase by Stella Shutiva, with geometric design throughout estimated at $300/500 sold at $1,000; a three-piece Zuni Indian silver and turquoise jewelry, all with bezel set cabochon cut turquoise ($1,625); a Chinese Ming carved wood Buddha, hands in Dharmachakra-Mudra, estimated at $800/1,200, sold at $4,687; and a rare Daum Nancy bird’s beak vase with Venetian canal scene decoration, signed “Daum Nancy with the Cross of Lorraine,” surprised when it went well beyond estimate to sell at $4,375.
Prices, with buyer’s premium, as reported by the auction house. DAG will offer Modern fine art at its next auction in mid-January. For information, www.dallasauctiongallery.com or 214-653-3900.
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