Published: November 27, 2018
Review and Onsite Photos by Marty Steiner
BUFORD, GA. – Diversity best describes the more than 1,100 lots offered in any Slotin Folk Art Auction. The November 10-11 sale was no different. Drawing from more than 200 consignors, including individuals, estates, museums and galleries, there was literally something for almost every collector and art collecting specialty.
Camaraderie always describes the full house of attendees. The license plates on the parked cars tell the story of this community. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, the Carolinas and all the Southern states are seen, even though the entire sale is available online. In fact, this sale saw half of the sales online with 24,000 active online bidders, and approximately 100 of each phone and absentee bidders, not including the 135 bidders registered to bid in the room.
Sale highlights that most collectors can only dream about included the single Bill Traylor offered in the sale, a work titled “Doctor,” which brought $55,200 from a phone bidder. This small (6 by 10 inches) Traylor pencil and graphite on found cardboard has been in a private collection for more than 40 years. Most of the recent Slotin sales have offered only one Traylor, which would usually become the highest-selling work in that sale.
This time, however, Adolf Wolfli’s “He Who Would Teach Me Art” edged the Traylor out when it reached $56,400. The 1930s image of masked men with feathered headdress and strong, colorful geometric forms was made up of pastels, graphite and mixed media on paper. Again, a phone bidder took home the prize.
Other top sales included one of the “Possum Trot” environment dolls with weathered clothes at $45,600, followed in price by a Sam Doyle typical house-paint-on-found roofing tin with attached conch shell, titled “Dr Buz Halo” that closed at $30,000. Another Doyle paint on tin work, “Hopeing Boy,” sold for $10,800.
The nearly dozen lots that sold for more than $10,000 was rounded out by Herman Bridgers’ environmental wood cutout “Three Man” totem at $20,400, and one of three Joseph Yoakum’s lots. Yoakum’s “Mt Wilhelemina of Nassau Range near Carstenez New Guinea of Asia” nearly doubled expectation at $20,400. Yoakum’s other two lots also performed well.
Three examples of Frank Osterrieder oil paintings on unstretched canvas, which are regarded as radical folk art, drew strong bidding. Dating to the 1950s, his “A-Bomb” brought $20,400, more than eight times the presale high catalog expectation. Osterrieder’s few known works appear to have come from the Detroit area and also include civil rights themes.
Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s “The Grand Mass of Titanium – Voyages Through Space – No. 815,” the catalog cover illustration, reached $18,000, barely meeting expectation. Both Mattie Lou O’Kelley lots were disappointing, with her large and highly detailed “Georgia Hill Farming” reaching $15,600 against an estimate of $20/25,000 and her “Circus Parade” topping out at $12,000, just short of its $15/20,000 estimate. All eight Florida Highwayman offerings performed well, with Harold Newton’s signed “Florida House Under Palm Tree with Boat” significantly exceeding estimate and making the top ten at $12,000.
Folk pottery accounted for the first 105 lots, which served as the warmup for the high-dollar lots. Among the most recognizable potters were five George Ohr examples, seven Lanier Meaders, two Arie Meaders, more than 20 other Meaders family, six Burlon B. Craigs and a single work attributed to Dave the slave, which was the only piece of early pottery offered.
In general, the pottery prices seemed soft. With more than 20 years of folk art auction experience, the Slotin catalog estimates are quite reliable. Only nine pottery lots exceeded the Slotin published expectations. Among these were a signed and dated Lin Craven “Mamma Possum with Babies” that realized $540, a Jim Bozeman snake-decorated plate that went for $360, a Lanier Meaders face jug with glazed tears that ended at $3,600 and an extremely large 5-gallon John Brock double face jug that closed at $960.
In each Slotin sale, certain artist’s work will appear to be consistently stronger than others. In many cases this may simply be due to the active bidders involved in that particular sale and their current financial capability. This observation is supported by a limited, sometimes single, winning bidder of all or most of an individual artist’s offerings in that sale. In this sale, strong prices were realized for all five Thornton Dial lots, which were led by his “Blue Fox Lady” at $9,000.
Religious and faith-based themes are frequently seen in the folk art genre. Three- and two-dimensional representations of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark as well as the Last Supper and Crucifixion are created by many artists. Some of these artists believed that they were proclaiming the message through their art. This Slotin sale took it one step closer with actual church and synagogue artifacts.
Each Slotin sale usually includes a few lots of circus and carnival items. This sale’s carnival offerings included a 20-foot-wide “World’s Fattest Man” banner for $3,600, a 6-foot-high ball toss clown’s face banner with wooden teeth at $2,400 and two groups of painted canvas carnival knockdown dolls that went for $780 and $300.
Carved wood objects, both painted and not, are an entire folk art form. Examples in this sale included works by Edgar Tolson, Carl McKenzie, S.L. Jones, Ernest Patton, Garland, Minnie and Greg Adkins, William Dawson and others. Henry Bridgewater’s buxom ladies usually form lamps, but this sale offered one that was not wired. A group of nine miniature cigar Indian-like forms by S. Cornette and animals by Felipe and Leroy Archuleta were joined by the natural unpainted wood animals of Linville Barker.
Wood assemblages by Ab the Flagman, along with stone carvings by Tim Lewis, Raymond Coins, Lonnie Holley, Stanley Greer and Charles Simmons rounded out the three-dimensional statuary forms. Of these, it should be noted that while Lewis and Coins worked exclusively in stone, Holley worked across the spectrum of media. Interest and bids for many of these stone carvings fell short of expectations.
While rarely referred to as recyclers, many folk artists inadvertently perform that function utilizing found, discarded or surplus materials. Using cut-out metal and scrap paint, R.A. Miller and David Butler are among these. Six Butler lots included an unpainted “Fantasy Sea Monster” that brought $240 and a colorful initialed “Rooster” that went for $1,080. Miller’s iconic “Blow Oskar” in Uncle Sam colors and Red Devil made up three lots ranging from $240 to $360 with a box lot of 43 small items that sold for $720.
The second day of the last few sales have kicked off with vintage decoys from private collections. This sale offered 19 lots of decoys, most from the collection of Richard Little, a 95-year-old World War II US Navy veteran, whose passion for the water manifested in his decoy collecting. Prices ranged from $100 to $1,200, with the top price achieved for both an initialed “J.P.” Northeastern loon with hand-hammered lead weight and a barn owl with cavity for post mounting. Many of the decoys exhibited appropriate environmental weathering.
This second day also presented several lots that qualify more as Americana than folk art, including a group of Statue of Liberty cast metal forms that were likely souvenir shop creations, a few trade signs, quilts and Native American items. The vast world of international folk art also was a focus of the second day’s offerings. Haitian, Italian and Latin American artists, as well as works by anonymous makers, particularly those with religious themes, were sold. Eighteen lots of framed vintage black and white photographs were sold at quite moderate prices.
The most unusual items of the second day were 13 lots of mixed media statuary from an Ethiopian Orthodox Coptic Church of North & South America in Harlem, N.Y., which included Egyptian Pharoahs, a giant sarcophagus and even a bust of Harriet Tubman.
Slotin Folk Art Auctions has become one of the premier sources of folk, outsider and art-brut by building trust with major consignors. Over their nearly quarter century of operations, the firm has sold collections from the Smithsonian, the American Folk Art Museum, the Rosenaks, Florida Folk Art Museum, the Old Charleston Slave Market and many others.
Prices quoted include buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
Two two-day sales are conducted each year. The spring sale is scheduled for April 27-28, at Shadburn Hall in Buford, just minutes outside Atlanta. For additional information, www.slotinfolkart.com or 770-532-1115.
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