Published: October 15, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
NEW HAVEN, CONN. – An eclectic sale of approximately 350 lots filled the small sunny warehouse space Fred and Kathy Giampietro call home to New Haven Auctions. The saleroom is small enough that 30 chairs fills the space nicely and most of them were occupied on Saturday, September 28.
Fred Giampietro said that the sale was their best sale to date and totaled approximately $436,000, including buyer’s premium. About 95 percent of the sale sold on the day, with a few post-auction sales nudging that total upwards. This sell-through rate can be directly attributed to Giampietro’s general but unofficial policy to discourage reserves. He recalled that only four lots in the sale had reserves, of which three failed to find buyers during the sale. By the day before the sale, he said they had received approximately 2,300 online bidders across the four bidding platforms New Haven Auctions conducts sales on, with more than 1,100 absentee bids left. When asked how those numbers translated during the sale, Giampietro said about 49 percent of the sale sold to online bidders and 30 percent selling to bidders in the room, with phone and absentee bidders accounting for the remainder of the winning bids. “In a way, I was the most happy about solid prices for items under $2,500,” Giampietro said, reaffirming he saw enthusiasm and energy in the lower end of the market.
Iconic folk art forms – weathervanes, cigar store Indians and carved wooden figures – did well, as did many of the works by recognized Nineteenth and modern artists. Leading the sale was “La Chevelure” by Henri Matisse, which brought $62,500 against an estimate of $15/20,000. The lot opened at $5,000 but interest online and on the phones pushed bidding and it finally sold to a trade buyer in the room who beat out an online bidder. The gouache on paper cut and pasted work had provenance to the Pierre Matisse gallery and Harry Veit, who had been a friend of the Matisse family.
Taking second place honors was an abstract oil on Masonite work by Albert Gallatin, which brought $53,750. Like the Matisse, it had provenance to Harry Veit as well as the Old Willard Gallery of New York City. It was bought by a private collector underbid by a bidder in the room.
A high standard for folk art was set with two lots, each of which Giampietro had deemed “rare.” The third-highest selling lot in the sale was an elephant weathervane attributed to J.W. Fiske that had three phones on it at the start and which the trade chased to $24,000 but which ultimately came down to a battle between two private collectors, one of whom won it for $40,000. Next on the leaderboard was a carved and giltwood pilot house eagle by John Bellamy that a trade buyer for $27,500. It was underbid by a bidder in the room and a private collector.
A group of nearly 20 Native American items crossed the block next and all but one of the lots found buyers. Many were purchased by a private collector in the room, who put up a good fight for – but did not win – the top lot of the group, which was a beaded pipe bag that sold to a phone bidder for $18,750. According to Giampietro, the house had several bidders in on it up to about $10,000 and the lot received a round of applause when it closed.
Trade figures stood tall in the sale. Bidders showed they had heart for a life-sized trade figure of a man wearing a top hat that a trade buyer on the phone got for $15,000. A cigar store Indian chief holding cigars in one hand did not quite meet expectations but nonetheless had absentee bids to $9,000, after which it came down to a phone and a trade buyer online. The trade buyer won it for $13,750.
Guy Wiggins’ scenes of New York City are perennial favorites with buyers and the one at New Haven Auctions did not disappoint. Giampietro said it saw competition between private collectors and dealers, which is what he is trying to achieve by lot selection, careful estimates and descriptions and high-resolution photographs. “Old Trinity” more than quadrupled its low estimate, bringing $12,500.
The lot with the highest estimate in the sale was an archive of Walker Evans photographs and personal ephemera that Giampietro had priced at $30/40,000. About 45 minutes prior to the lot crossing the block, Giampietro announced to the room that the Metropolitan Museum of Art had contacted him right before the sale, claiming ownership as the recipient of the Walker Evans estate. Giampietro asked if anyone in the room had traveled to bid on the lot and said they would offer it but that until the ownership issue could be resolved, the lot could not be released. In the end, the lot failed to find a buyer at $7,750 and the lot was passed.
An imposing pair of early giltwood Baroque Solomonic columns situated in the foyer of the auction house made a bold statement and sold squarely within estimate, at $6,875. The pair had been consigned by St Thomas Church of New Haven, which had also consigned an oil on canvas of Christ that realized $1,250. Other lots consigned by St Thomas Church included two religious pictures, a pair of carved angels and a paint-decorated frame.
The next sale at New Haven Auctions will take place January 11-12. The first of the two-day sale will feature the collection of Susie and Richie Burmann, who were Midwestern private collectors who focused on high-quality Americana, country furniture, watercolor pictures, to name just a few of the categories in which the Burmann’s collected. The second session will be the firm’s general auction, which Giampietro said is shaping up nicely, with good decoys and mechanical banks, among others.
All prices cited include buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
New Haven Auctions is at 315 Peck Street. For information, www.newhavenauctions.com or 475-234-5120.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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