Published: February 23, 2021
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Barridoff Galleries
SOUTH PORTLAND, MAINE – Louise Nevelson’s (American, 1899-1988) “Moon Zag III,” a 1984 wooden sculpture painted black, 56 by 79 by 23½ inches, topped Barridoff Galleries’ February 13 winter fine art auction, pulling in $121,000 and selling to a private collector in Berlin, Germany. Nevelson is known for her monumental, monochromatic, wooden wall pieces and outdoor sculptures. Born in the Poltava Governorate of the Russian Empire, she emigrated with her family to the United States in the early Twentieth Century. “Moon Zag III” comes from a single owner who had possessed it for almost 40 years. With accompanying labels verso, the assemblage had been shown at Pace in 1984 and was purchased by an owner from Hokin Gallery in Florida, as attested by a copy of the original receipt from 1986 from Hokin Gallery that was included with lot.
There were nearly 200 lots crossing the block in this sale, which totaled about $870,000 and posted a sell-through rate approaching 90 percent, marking the firm’s best sale since the change in ownership in August 2017, when four long-time employees bought the company from its founders, Rob and Annette Elowitch. In March 2018, the company moved into a new gallery space in South Portland. “We think that’s part of the long-term strategy on our part” said co-owner William Milliken, “We’re going on four years of ownership at the end of March. It’s the best sale we’ve had and it comes on the heels of the past two or three sales going back to June 2019 in which we’ve had steadily increasing totals.”
Edward Weston’s (American, 1886-1958) “Pepper P38” was printed by the artist in the 1930s and exhibited at Eindhoven, the Netherlands in the early 1950s, and was sold to a private collector six years later for $25. Here, it gaveled for $57,950. The gelatin silver print, mounted, of a sensuously posed pepper came from the collection of Nicholas Dean, Edgecomb, Maine, and had been received directly from the artist in 1956. Weston’s initials and date are written in pencil on mount, artist’s name, title, date and numeric inscriptions written in pencil on mount verso. The Eindhoven stamp on mount on verso of the 7-7/16-by-9-5/16-inch photograph. Included with the print were copies and contents of the correspondence between the artist and Dean concerning the purchase of this photograph from the artist for $25. The original letters, with envelopes and postmarks, are being donated to the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Ariz.
Wolf Kahn (American, 1927-2020), a perennial favorite at Barridoff sales, made his mark with five notable pieces in the sale. “Green Tree Screen,” a pastel, beat its high estimate and finished at $33,020. Framed and signed lower center, the 30-by-44-inch woodsy abstract had been acquired directly from artist from a New York City private collector. A vibrant pastel on paper, framed under glass, titled “Red, Green & Yellow,” from the same private collection measured 17¼ by 21 inches and went out at $17,780, while “Frontal Barn,” a pastel on paper depicting just that, was bid to $15,240. “Hillside in Vermont” and “Maine Island,” also acquired directly from the artist, made $12,700 and $9,525, respectively.
Barridoff has had success with works by Lynne Drexler (American, 1928-1999), who was one of Monhegan’s early abstract expressionist painters. She studied with Hans Hofmann and Robert Motherwell. Her paintings are included in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, the Portland Museum of Art and the Farnsworth Art Museum. And in a 2015 article in Architectural Digest, one of her spectacular large abstract works was prominently featured in singer-songwriter John Legend’s and model Christine Teigen’s Manhattan apartment. In the firm’s August 2020 sale, Drexler’s “Recalled Green” 1966, from the artist’s estate was bid to $31,720, more than five times its high estimate. In this most recent sale, “Buggles,” a 1972 oil on canvas abstract with bright yellows and greens, framed, came out of a private Biddeford, Maine, collection and was bid to $25,620. Signed, titled and dated on verso, artist’s inventory no. “LD-OC-141” on back edge of canvas verso, it measured 31 by 17¼ inches. Also by Drexler, “Green Entry,” a 30-by-38-inch oil on canvas pulsating with splashes of red, blue, orange, green and yellow, earned $14,640.
Another Downeast artist Barridoff has successfully made a market for is Dahlov Ipcar (American, 1912-2017), famously the younger child and only daughter of Marguerite (1887-1968) and William Zorach (1887-1966), both acclaimed artists of the early Twentieth Century, but a sought-after artist in her own right. Ipcar, well-known among those acquainted with children’s literature from the 1940s through the 1970s, is one of Maine’s celebrity artists, a visionary, iconoclastic, ambitious and widely exhibited painter who died in February 2017 at age 99. “Zebra Wood,” emblematic of her colorful and kaleidoscopic images of animals, domestic and exotic, that reside in semi-Cubist landscapes, set an artist record at Barridoff’s August 2020 sale, fetching $40,260. Similar in theme, “Nepal Valley,” an oil on canvas offered in this most recent sale that depicted exotic animals gathered at a watering hole, was taken by 31 bids to a final price of $25,620 from a $6/8,000 estimate. From a private Maine collection, it was signed and dated lower right with artist label on back, measured 18 by 35 inches and was accompanied by a personal card from the artist giving the painting to a friend. Earlier in the sale, Ipcar’s “Tree of Bandipur,” 1996, a fanciful depiction of a treetop tete-a-tete among a tree pangolin, giant squirrel and another Indian spotted creature, drew a winning $18,300 bid.
Fetching a surprising $24,400 on an expectation of just $1,2/1,800 was a lacquer on panel work by Haitian artist Emilcar Similien (b 1944), a silhouette portrait of an African American woman in a dress and colorful striped top against a backdrop of textile patterns. Titled “Black and gold portrait” and signed “Semil ’79” upper right, the 31-by-31-inch work came from a private Cumberland, Maine, collection. Simil uses his images of women as means for displaying patterns, color and the sparkle of gold jewelry on black skin. He paints with acrylics on Masonite of any size.
Another Haitian artist, Luce Turnier (1924-1994) outperformed the estimate on his “Portrait of a Woman,” 1949, an oil on canvas, framed, that saw $18,300 against a $2,5/3,500 estimate. Signed and dated upper right with “Collection of Mary-Leigh Call Smart” label on verso, the 34-5/8-by-19-5/8-inch work was sold to benefit Surf Point Foundation, York, Maine.
A snowy view of “Union Square, Washington Statue” by Johann Berthelson (American, 1883-1972) resonated with the season and with bidders, taken to $19,840, considerably past its $9,000 high estimate. The oil on canvasboard, signed lower right, was out of the estate of Isabel Selinger and measured 23½ by 30 inches.
Pablo Picasso (Spanish-French, 1881-1973) was represented in the sale with an etching titled “Jeune Sculpteur au Travail (Young Sculptor at Work)” from The Vollard Suite, 1933. It came out of a collection of a private New England institution, signed in pencil lower right and measured 10½ by 7-9/16 inches. It sold for $14,880.
A sculpture by John Bisbee (American, b 1965) added some dimension to the parade of flat art. His “Large Circle,” 2009, consisted of hammered and welded steel nails fashioned into an orb with a 48-inch diameter. From a private Scarborough, Maine, collection, it left the gallery for $13,420.
Fetching the same price was “Child” by Rockwell Kent (American, 1882-1971), an oil on canvas of a cherubic youth (catalog notes surmise the model was probably the artist’s eldest daughter Kathleen, born in 1911) among the clouds. Signed and dated upper left, the 7-by-9-1/8-inch work more than doubled its high estimate to settle at $13,420.
Additional highlights included a wintry Carl Sprinchorn oil on canvas, “Woodcutters and Team,” $13,200; a Modernist “Blue Nude,” by William Tolliver (American, 1951-2000), $10,800; and Reuben Tam’s (American, 1893-1970) “The Moon-Driven Sea,” 1954, $10,370.
“We’re already building for a great August sale,” said Milliken, “including 40 pieces from a downsizing estate, a house full of artwork – Neil Welliver, Alex Katz and a bunch of other things.” The gallery also will host a discovery sale before that.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, 207-772-5011 or www.barridoff.com.
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