Published: October 26, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Clars Auction Gallery
OAKLAND, CALIF. – Clars Auction Gallery offered more than 1,450 lots in its Fine Art & Antique Auction October 16-17, with a sale total of $975,000.
Cristina Campion, associate director of Twentieth Century design, said “We were quite pleased with the results of our sale; we’re seeing a bustling market for art and design on the online bidding platforms at this time, with bidders from across the globe vying for auction items.”
A group of three Chinese enameled silver cosmetic boxes that Clars’ Asian art specialist, Harry Huang said was of such fine quality that he thought they might be Imperial brought $20,000, the top price in the sale. One of the boxes in the lot was decorated overall with a bird and floral motif, featuring a hinged lid revealing a glass mirror above a drawer; the second was decorated with a demon riding a carp along with the Eight Daoist emblems and various bird and floral panels; the third has canted corners and decorated overall with auspicious flowers, animals and insects. The group, as well as several other lots of Chinese decorative works of art, were from a collector who had supported the Denver Art Museum. While Huang did not say who purchased the lot, he said it was “most likely going to China.”
The bats, dragons and phoenix that provided the decorative elements of three Chinese bowls were all auspicious symbols that Huang thought contributed to the desirability of the lot. He said they probably dated to the late Qing dynasty, mid- to late Nineteenth Century; the group of three finished at $9,375. A finely painted Chinese blue and white trumpet vase with peony blossoms, bamboo and butterflies finished at $7,500, the same realized by a group of seven Chinese enameled opium boxes that was being sold by the same seller who sold the enameled silver cosmetic boxes.
Landscapes dotted the leaderboard. A buyer in New Zealand paid $16,250 for Peter McIntyre’s (New Zealand, 1910-1995) “Whakapapa River,” which had been commissioned from friends of the artist who eventually ended up in San Francisco. Kris McGhee, Clars’ fine art specialist, said it was the first work by the artist that Clars had handled. She noted interest in the piece came from all over, including several inquiries from bidders in the United States. In the end, however, a buyer from New Zealand, bidding online, won the lot.
A landscape by another New Zealand artist also crossed Clars’ block. “Mountain Lake” by Christian Siemer (American/New Zealand, 1874-1940) came from a private Northern California collection and will be staying in the Bay Area. It was purchased by the granddaughter of the artist, who was bidding on the phone, for $11,875.
The same early California art collector that sold Siemer’s landscape also consigned “Fishing at the Waterfall,” by Thomas Virgin Troyon Hill Jr (American, 1871-1922). McGhee noted that Clars has sold more works by Hill than any other auction house and she was not surprised it sold to a California collector of his works for $6,250.
McGhee said that Fern Coppedge’s (American, 1883-1957) “Autumn” was unusual in that it was one of the few works by the artist that does not include buildings. Estimated at $6/9,000, the oil on canvas frame in a period Newcomb Macklin frame was done in a bright, seasonally appropriate palette and found a buyer in Maine for $15,000.
A private collector in Hong Kong fended off stiff competition from European bidders and paid $12,500 for “Paysage du Midi” by Hugues Claude Pissarro (French, b 1935), the grandson of French Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. According to McGhee, the painting was from the same collection that consigned Andy Warhol’s 1987 screenprint “Moonwalk,” which Clars sold for $437,500 on September 17.
“We had quite a few fine art surprises, and many things exceeded expectations,” McGhee commented. She pointed to the result achieved for a 12-by-22-inch oil on canvas landscape by an unidentified American artist titled “Ice Skating on the Hudson,” which bidders chased to $4,688 from an estimate of $400/600. It was a result McGhee attributed to a trend among buyers of fine art who will pursue something by an unknown artist if the quality and condition is good.
Landscapes were not the only painting genre to attract interest. California painter Lewis C. Kesling’s (1930-2003) “Nureyev” looked like a mixed media work but was, in fact, an oil on canvas pieced. The work, which sold to a collector in the San Francisco Bay Area for $12,500, was a bit of a test for the artist, as few of his works have come to auction. At press time, it is the highest price realized for a work by the artist at auction.
“There was some debate between people who thought it was Dutch or Italian,” McGhee said about a portrait that was “the most inquired-about lot.” The work depicted a man in a black jacket with white lace trim who is shown with a bony hand on his right shoulder, next to an hourglass. It was titled “The Hour of Death (Memento Mori)” and was cataloged as Dutch School, Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century. Bidders from Amsterdam and Italy gave stiff competition to its eventual owner, a trade buyer in New York City, who paid $11,250 for it.
In the design category, a pair of Comfortable Club armchairs, reissued by Hermès, sold in separate lots but will be staying together as the same buyer paid $13,750 for each. After a model originally designed by Jean Michel Frank in the 1920s for Hermès, the Etoupe leather-upholstered reeditions were cataloged as being of exceptional quality with saddle stitch detail identical to the originals. Another pair of chairs, this time being sold together, were Janus armchairs designed by Edward Wormley for Dunbar that sold for the high estimate of $5,000. A 14-piece suite of Michael Taylor patinated metal outdoor furniture, in the Montecito pattern, was offered in four lots that realized $12,875.
Peter Voulkos’ ceramic plate sold within estimate at $3,750 and a French modernist silver bowl by Jean Puiforcat rounded out to $3,438.
Among traditional furniture lots, a late Eighteenth Century George III chinoiserie decorated bookcase stood the tallest. It brought $5,938 from an East Coast collector, well ahead of its $2/4,000 estimate. An Arts and Crafts-style desk and chair made by Stickley Audi in upstate New York more than doubled its high estimate when it brought $4,063. Also surpassing expectations was an American Chippendale tiger maple high chest, circa 1770, that brought $3,125.
Clars’ next sale is scheduled for November 19-21.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
For information, 510-428-0100 or www.clars.com.
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