Published: September 15, 2020
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Nye & Co.
BLOOMFIELD, N.J. – Nye & Company’s September 2 Estate Treasures Auction featured slightly more than 450 lots and achieved a total of about $560,000. The house welcomed by-appointment previews for two weeks before the sale closed and took online bids through the company’s dedicated online platform, or through either Invaluable or LiveAuctioneers. Phone bids were also offered to supplement absentee bids.
“Good things are bringing good prices,” auction house president John Nye said, speaking by phone after the sale. “It was a very solid offering and we saw a very respectable result.”
Well before the COVID-19 pandemic had curtailed in-person bidding, Nye & Co., had moved away from the in-house model, a format Nye does not anticipate returning to once state guidelines relax. And really, with the results and global reach of the house, why would it? Nye noted an increase in both online registrants and people looking at the site, particularly from countries farther afield, such as Australia and New Zealand. Like most auction houses in the Covid-era, Nye supplements their online catalogs with extensive photos and condition reports, a service they see a demand for even while the sale is taking place. When asked about the state of business these days, Nye was optimistic.
“Business during Covid has been solid. It has not been full of peaks and valleys; rather, it’s been very reliable. People have become accustomed to buying online with confidence; they follow our sales and bid accordingly. It’s not a steep trajectory, but it’s going in the right direction.”
Nye has noticed one trend in particular. “From what people have told us, there is an interest in making the home more utilitarian, more useful. To turn an empty room into a home office or classroom. People have been buying things to turn their houses into home workplaces as well as to make it a more beautiful space.”
The “estate treasures” aspect of the sale title is apt, with many of the top lots coming from estates. This was seen perhaps most notably with the sale’s top lot, a bronze fountain titled “Scherzo” by American artist Harriet Whitney Frishmuth (1880-1980), which came from the New Jersey estate of Margaret Hull Chalif. Estimated at $25/50,000, the fountain is a smaller version of a 1929 model at Bracken Library on the campus of Ball State University, in Muncie, Ind. It inspired competition on the phone and online before selling to a private collector from the Mid-Atlantic states, bidding on the phone, for $61,500. While the Chalif estate did not contribute a very sizeable group, several lots of silver from the estate crossed the block early in the sale and did well, with Gorham and Tiffany flatware sets achieving $3,690 and $3,383, respectively.
Two Old Master paintings – one of a man lighting a pipe attributed to Godfried Schalcken (Dutch, 1643-1706), the other a portrait of a lady signed Nicolaes Maes (Dutch, 1634-1693) were both from the collection of Americana and Old Master collector Martin Wunsch (1924-2013) and both had been exhibited at the Currier Gallery of Art in 1975. The former brought $44,280 from a phone-bidding private collector from New England, while a private collector bidding online from Israel acquired the latter, for $33,825. In both cases, Nye said competition was largely from Europe.
It is not uncommon for strong sale results to generate high-quality consignments, a happy upward spiral that can reap continued rewards. This sale featured several consignments or individual lots that came to the house as a direct result of previous offerings. Perhaps most notable has been the increase in Nye’s offerings of Old Master works, which have seen a surge since the house sold a long-lost Rembrandt masterpiece in 2015 for more than $1 million.
A private East Coast collection that provided the bulk of the Old Master works on offer was one such group. Noted results from among this collection was an engraving after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Dutch, 1525-1569) of villagers dancing that sold to a trade buyer in New York City bidding on the phone for $14,760, more than seven times its low estimate. A trade buyer on the phone won a 1631 miniature-sized engraved self-portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn for $10,148, while a mixed-media on paper study of a head, attributed to the school of Annibale Carracci (Italian, 1560-1609) from the Sixteenth or Seventeenth Century realized $9,225 from a private collector in Belgium bidding on the phone.
More Old Master works were consigned from the estate of Samy Iosub, a New Jersey collector whose collection will be sold in future sales at Nye & Co. An Old Master battle scene, probably by a Seventeenth Century Flemish artist, was part of nearly 50 lots from Iosub’s collection that were included in this sale; likely from a larger work, the painting sold to a French museum bidding on the phone for $7,380. Iosub’s collection is broad in scope and other notable results from categories outside of Old Master works of art were Antonio Jacobsen’s portrait of the ship Catherine M. Monahan, which sailed to a new home with a private collector in Virginia bidding online, for $8,610. A set of Cactus pattern sterling silver flatware from the Iosub estate was the first lot in the sale and topped a sizeable selection of silver and expectations, selling to a private Western American collector bidding online for $6,765.
The upward spiral generated by previous high-valued sales was not limited to Old Masters. Two works by some of the iconic artists of the Twentieth Century were a direct result of works offered earlier this year. A collector who had seen the $110,700 result Nye achieved for a Keith Haring “Subway” series work in the firm’s May 27-28, 2020 sale, reached out to Nye to sell an untitled mixed-media work of a monkey with a crown by Jean-Michel Basquiat (American, 1960-1988). The untitled work from 1982 was accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Basquiat’s estate and made $24,600 from a private collector in New Jersey, three times its high estimate. The May result for the Haring also prompted the consignment of a chalk on paper “Subway” drawing to this sale; this time from a private collector in Ireland. It closed at $20,910, from an online trade buyer in New York City.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
Nye & Company’s next sale is a Discovery sale on October 1. The next Estate Treasures sale is schedule for October 14 and headlines a group of works by self-taught outsider artist, Jimmie Lee Sudduth.
Nye & Company is at 20 Beach Street. For more information, www.nyeandcompany.com or 973-984-6900.
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