Published: February 5, 2008
Recognizing that the market for art is fast becoming global, as opposed to the regional markets that have traditionally been firmly established by auction houses throughout the country, Steve Gass changed the name of his auction house last year to reflect the current trend. Trinity Fine Arts became Trinity International Auctions and Gass has throttled ahead with not only a global flavor to the name of his auction house, but a true international representations of both the artwork offered †and the clientele he caters to.
“If you think of yourself as an American-based auction company, you’re wrong. You have to think global,” stated Gass after his most recent sale on January 12. The auction at Trinity was subject to a record number of phone bidders, huge Internet action and absentee bids executed not only from traditional locales, such as New York City, London and Paris, but also from many unexpected spots, such as Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Turkey, Poland and Russia. In all, bidders from 29 countries participated in the auction.
“We have been building up foreign relationships and it is starting to pay off very nicely,” commented Gass. “And, while the weak dollar and strong euro are providing these clients with a significant discount, it is not the only reason that these buyers are flocking to us. We are one of the few American auction houses that consistently brings affordable, quality foreign artworks to the block,” he said. “We make a conscious effort to do that, and our results indicate that we have succeeded. We are consistently bringing new buyers into the market, and these are people that are very excited to be participating in our auctions.”
Gass estimated that 30 percent of the auction sold overseas, partly due to the diverse offering that comprised the nearly 300 lots offered. “When we get paintings from certain areas, buyers from that region go nuts,” he said, stating that Polish, Russian, Italian and Asian collectors have become enthusiastic in regards to repatriating artist’s works from their countries.
“We are not a stereotypical auction house,” said Gass of the type of artworks that are typically offered in a Trinity sale. “We like to present a complete cross-section of art.” The eclectic assortment rang true to Gass’s philosophy with some “real interesting” categories and examples ranging from Old Masters to Modernist. The auction house cited strong sales across the board, which was “one of the things that was surprising to me †every category sold well, with many going out well above estimates,” said Gass.
Due to the large number of Russian bidders participating in the sale, Trinity always begins with artists from this region. Polish artist Jan Stanisklawski crossed the block right off the bat and each of the lots surpassed estimates, with “Approaching Storm” selling to a phone bidder at $2,760 and “Autumn Sunrise” bringing $2,990.
It wasn’t long before the fireworks erupted as lot eight, an Old Master painting by Russian artist Vasili Polenov was offered. With all six phone lines occupied, and an additional four cell phones manned, “The Rabbi,” an oil on paper laid on board, opened for bidding. While Internet bidders attempted to get in on the action, bids came fast and furious, with the lot doubling estimates at $23,900.
“You Belong To Me” by Russian Surrealist artist Vasily Yakovlevich Sitnikov was offered a few lots later and it, too, would scream. With a cult-like following for the artist in Russia, this lot was another one to have every available phone pressed into service. The oil on canvas from 1985, depicted a unicorn-type figure engaged in sexual activities with a tussle-haired blonde. Bidding was intense on this lot as well, with it selling at $37,950.
Another lot to attract a huge amount of attention was Vladamir Makovsky’s oil “Two Young Boys in a Field with Scarecrows.” The circa 1904 oil on panel was bid well past the presale estimates as it sold to a phone bidder for $35,850. Flat art was not the only Russian art to do well, as a bronze by Evgueni Alexandrovitch Lanceray, “Mongolian Horseman,” also exceeded estimates, bringing $14,340.
While the foreign artworks attracted attention from overseas, American works were received with equal enthusiasm by buyers stateside. Leading the auction was Theodore Wendel’s oil on canvas titled “Giverny Farmhouse in the Spring.” Schooled in France between 1885 and 1888, Wendel became a close friend of Claude Monet and was one of the few American artists to win his praise. Monet claimed him to be one of the only American artists “to come over that actually got it.” The attractive Impressionistic scene, with a noted technique similar to Monet’s, was actively bid, with it hammering down to a New York City gallery bidding on the telephone for $48,000.
Other lots of interest included a Joseph Pollet painting titled “Subway Riders,” a circa 1929 oil on canvas with a mixture of styles, including a hint of German Impressionism. “This is my favorite picture in the entire sale,” commented Gass prior to the auction. Sporting a label from the James Cox Gallery on the verso, the painting was bid by several in the gallery to a selling price of $5,950.
“Louisiana Plantation,” an oil on canvas depicting a New Orleans antebellum scene by Alberta Kinsey had bidders out in force. “I had to cut bidders off on this lot,” stated Gass prior to the auction, “We just didn’t have enough phone lines to accommodate everyone that wanted to bid on it.” When the dust had settled, there were nine unhappy bidders on the telephone, and one jubilant bidder that claimed the lot at $9,560.
From Hawaii, a David Howard Hitchcock Impressionistic oil on board depicting a lush garden scene with a backdrop of palm trees and mountains saw lots of action with another full contingent on the telephones. The lot hammered down at $14,346.
“First Congregational Church, Madison, Conn.” by Guy Wiggins had been consigned by a private collector from Madison, whose father had reportedly been a pastor of the church. Estimated at $2,5/5,500, the lot took off, with a buyer claiming the lot at $8,962. Another interesting lot was a pastoral painting depicting cows grazing in a pasture by Levi Prentice. Atypical of the intricate still life paintings that are most associated with the artist, the lot sold at $8,350.
One of the sleepers of the sale, a Fabio Fabbi oil on canvas titled “Harem Scene,” came alive as it crossed the auction block. Estimated at $5/7,000, the painting had a Christie’s label on the verso and was thought to have been a painting that was bought in at the auction house. Trinity International estimated the painting at $5/7,000, but was pleasantly surprised when requests for telephone bidding began to exceed the amount of lines available. Bidding on the lot took off, with a buyer from the Netherlands claiming the painting at $28,680.
All prices include the buyer’s premium charged. The next auction for Trinity International, April 12, is already in the composition stages with consignments currently being accepted. For information, 860-677-9996 or www.trinityfinearts.com .
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