Published: May 21, 2019
Review and Photos by Marty Steiner
BUFORD, GA. – Standard and Poor Index move over! The new measure of the American economy is the Slotin Folk Art Index. After weathering a period of some softness and a distinct shift in what and how serious collectors were bidding and buying, the April 27-28 sale saw strong bidding across the broad spectrum of folk art.
Perhaps anticipating the returning confidence of the folk art collecting family, the Slotins made a few adjustments to the pattern of sales in recent years. The Slotins have been slowly shifting more recognized artist’s material to the Sunday second day. They continued that process but also moved this spring sale’s second day start time two hours earlier than before to facilitate the onsite, hard-core buyers to stay both days and bid.
A number of out-of-towners did exactly that. An art and antiques dealer from Pennsylvania was among that group and bid to win a number of lots on Sunday. Previously, he already would have been on the road while the Slotin second sale was in progress.
Following on the heels of selling the premier first generation collections of the Rozenaks, the Smithsonian’s Herbert Hemphill and others, now add the Estelle Friedman collection, Bonnie Grossman’s Ames Gallery and the Julius Friedman African pottery to the list. Slotin is the self-taught, folk and Outsider auction hub. The importance of the collection provenance was frequently seen in this auction.
As always, the sale’s first lots were folk pottery, primarily Southern. The sale opened with a bang when a McCarty Pottery Hippo opened with a single online bid of $3,480, more than doubling the catalog high estimate. This was closely followed by four of seven Billy Ray Hussey lots also topping estimates.
Arie Meaders pots always are strong performers, with this sale’s sole example, a pedestal rooster with Bristol and cobalt glaze, bringing $5,520, well over expectation. Nine Lanier Meaders face jugs maintained the strong and consistent prices of his work. The Meaders clan were represented by a Cheever churn, three Edwin iconic blue glaze pieces, including two pedestal roosters.
All the usual Southern folk potters were represented, including Burlon Craig, Charles Lisk, Marie Rogers, Lin Craven, the Crockers, Browns, Hewitts, Alderman and more. Altogether, 103 pottery lots were sold with generally lackluster group results. A few pottery box lots were popular and also served to move the sale along.
Circus, carnival and trade signs are frequently the work of untrained folk artists. This sale included a large carnival banner, a paint-decorated footlocker that doubled as a carnival ticket box and a set of four roadside lumber and coal yard mile marker signs. The ticket box brought $3,720, and the Rees Lumber signs nearly tripled expectation by bringing $8,400. A single board shield-shaped folk painted variant of the Iowa state seal topped expectations at $2,880.
Ten lots of folk carved canes and walking sticks were disappointing except for an unusual intricately carved pair of crutches at $600. Some of these came from the former Ames Gallery collection in Berkeley, Calif., which closed after nearly 50 years of business. This Slotin sale included a considerable number of former Ames Gallery items.
Fraternal lodge accoutrements, including both Masonic and Odd Fellows items, followed. An Odd Fellows Heart-in-Hand on a staff and three chain-link in hand, both carved and painted wood, exceeded estimates at $2,880 and $1,440, with two other fraternal examples also bringing strong bids. A detail of the Heart-in-Hand on the staff served as the catalog cover image.
Native American items deaccessioned from the Museum of the American Indian in Cherokee, N.C., included a pair of beaded moccasins along with a fringed leather dance dress with beaded cape and three rivercane baskets. With its original price tag and identification as a Nancy Bradley lidded double-weave rivercane basket, it nearly doubled expectations at $2,400.
Tramp art is generally seen in picture frames, jewelry boxes and other small objects, but to find a pair of similar Crown of Thorns pedestal lamp tables is unusual. In spite of published provenance, they came up short at only $960 for the pair. Perhaps even more disappointing, at only $360, was an unusual hexagonal side table constructed entirely from empty wooden thread spools.
Then the Who’s Who of folk art unfolded. The Slotin sale format usually follows these miscellaneous items with the acknowledged masters of the genre. Although rarely seen in Slotin sales, Anna Mary Robertson’s (“Grandma Moses”) “Home Dear Home,” signed oil on canvas with New York Gallerie St Etienne documentation brought a somewhat soft $34,800.
Two Sam Doyle typical house paint on roofing tin examples brought strong bids, with Larie Rivers (sic) at $24,000 with extensive provenance.
James Castle’s work is unique, utilizing a soot and spit media on various found paper stock. All four examples, one double-sided, all exceeded high estimates and all sold to the same buyer. His simple image of a double-breasted long coat on the back of an Eddy’s Bread advertising card led the group at $12,000, followed by a landscape of poles and a root cellar at $9,600; and at $7,000 each, a “Santa Claus Visits Children,” appropriately on the back of a discarded Christmas card; and also a double-sided farmscape.
Two Joseph Yoakum fantasy landscapes of places he’d never seen included “Juraz Mtn” at $9,600 and “Mt El Miti” for $6,500. These were followed by “Minnie Evans Beautiful Portrait,” $9,600, and “Green Horned” exceeding expectations for $6,500. The portrait served as the official auction tee-shirt image.
Visionary artists, inspired by or illustrating scripture, sold strongly. These included Sister Gertrude Morgan’s “Rev. II…and the Angel Stood” from the Estelle Friedman collection at $4,560 and “Revelations 21” for $9,000.
Prolific Reverend Howard Finster was well represented, distributed across both sale days. Highlight of the Saturday group of 16 Finster lots was a somewhat atypical, un-numbered, signed monoprint of “When Oil Turns to Blood” at $6,000. More than half of the Finster lots met or exceeded catalog estimates. Sunday saw another 11 Finster lots of lower value also draw strong support, with almost all meeting expectations.
Although not regarded as a visionary artist, many of Clementine Hunter’s works have a religious theme. Leading her four framed works in this sale, all exceeding estimates, was her “Crucifixion” oil on panel at $10,800. Her early 1950s “Women Eating Melons” on found cardboard reached $6,000, and “Women Playing Cards” and “Funeral Procession” each brought $5,040.
Both Jon Serl offerings from the Ames collection brought strong bidding, selling to the same collector. “The Spirit” reached expectations at $6,000, with “Counting Sheep” exceeding with a $5,400 bid.
Likewise, the six Purvis Young offerings the first day brought strong prices. The in-house bidders cheered enthusiastically when one of their own won Purvis’ “Angel Face With Tears” at $12,000 against strong phone bidders. This more than tripled expectation. Purvis’ “Crying Angel Over City Traffic” and his “Five Figures” topped estimates and went to a Florida collector. This performance was eclipsed by the Sunday offerings, all of which exceeded estimates, with many bringing multiples of their expected high values.
Carved and painted wood pieces included the bas-relief plaques of Herbert Singleton and Josephus Farmer, as well as many full three-dimensional sculptural pieces by Edgar Tolson, Elijah Pierce, S.L. Jones, William Dawson and others.
Two Edgar Tolson Adam and Eve representations included “Temptation” and “Expulsion.” Both were from a private collection and had been purchased directly from Tolson 47 years ago. “Temptation” brought $12,000, and “Expulsion” reached $22,800.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, www.slotinfolkart.com or 770-532-1115.
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