Published: April 1, 2008
It was 20 years ago that Michael Grogan resigned his vice president’s position at Sotheby’s and left the mean streets of Manhattan to relocate in Boston, a town that he knew well, having graduated from Boston College where he majored in art history. Along with his wife, Nancy, whom he had met as a coworker at Sotheby’s, the couple established the once-fledgling and now highly respected auction house Grogan & Company Fine Art Auctioneers and Appraisers.
To celebrate the firm’s 20th anniversary and its successes, Grogan’s departed from its usual single-session auction format to host an action-packed and exciting two-day sale on March 1 and 2. The auction featured the “exceptionally tasteful lifetime collection of fine art, furniture, decorative works of art, books, costume jewelry and couture” belonging to Manhattan socialite DD Ryan on day one of the weekend sale, and a general estates auction conducted on Sunday.
Exceptional materials were not only presented from the Ryan collection, but from various consignors and estates as well. A prime selection of paintings, jewelry, Oriental carpets and furniture had collectors out in force, and not just to compete for the select materials that would cross the auction block, but also to pay tribute to their esteemed friends at Grogan’s.
With 112 auctions behind them, Michael Grogan stated, “Since Nancy and I packed up our children and left New York City to start Grogan & Company, we have never looked back! The pleasure and satisfaction we have experienced is immeasurable. The clients and colleagues we have worked with, the objects we have sold, and the many friends that we have met along the way continue to make the journey fulfilling and rewarding.”
Conducted inside the brick building in the center of Dedham to which the Grogans relocated some 12 years ago, the $2.5 million grossing auction was well received right from the start. Preview for the sale proved to be a forecast of things to come as Grogan’s longtime friends and clients poured into the auction gallery to look over the superb selection of goods. New customers also made their way to Grogan’s, along with a swarm of eBay bidders.
The property of DD Ryan, a Manhattan socialite and editor at Harper’s Bazaar , created quite a stir as materials she had owned, tucked away in storage units following a divorce, were brought to the auction block. Classified by Angus Wilke in the auction brochure as a “tastemaker, fashion presence and stylist&†DD had an unerring talent for combining disparate objects, people and ideas.”
“It was like an archeological unfolding,” commented Michael Grogan as he reflected back on unpacking box after box that had been in storage for more than 25 years. “Although I did not know her personally, through the process of cataloging her collection, I discovered her joie de vivre .”
Ryan wore the finest clothing and maneuvered through a variety of elite circles, counting among her friends the likes of Gloria Vanderbilt, Halston, Stephen Sondheim, Truman Capote, Cole Porter, Alex Katz and Andy Warhol.
The auction got underway with a selection of paintings, many personalized to DD Ryan. The opening lot, a Richard Bernstein color screen print titled “Andy Warhol Paper, 1973” would set the tone for the weekend. Carrying a presale estimate of $500/700, the lot was actively bid to $1,955.
An Alex Katz litho, an artist’s proof titled “Lilies,” shot past estimates with it hammering down at $2,530, while a color screen print signed by the artist went for $1,725.
The top lot of the session came as an oil on canvas by Katz, titled “Tiger Lilies,” was offered. Signed and dated 1965, the painting had a label from Fischbach Gallery on the verso and measured 31 by 38 inches. Bidding on the lot was quick-paced, with it hammering down at $106,375.
Other lots of interest from the selection of DD Ryan art included a Pablo Picasso lithograph titled “Francois” that was signed and dated 1946. It was also inscribed as number 30 from an edition of 50. Another of the lots that handily exceeded estimates, the Picasso hammered down at $57,500.
Several Andy Warhol items were offered, and a serigraph, “Dollar Sign,” inscribed on the back “To DD 19/25, Andy Warhol,” topped the list. With a blue background and marked with the copyright stamp, the serigraph more than doubled the $15/20,000 presale estimates as it sold for $43,125. Warhol’s “Poinsettias” screen print in red ink was knocked down at $10,350, while a press release packet for Halston that had been signed on the cover “To DD Halston&1000 000 000, Andy Warhol,” together with an autographed menu, brought $1,725.
Also of interest was a Masaaki Kusumoto abstract composition that soared past the $500/700 presale estimates, bringing $12,650. A Piero Fornasetti ink on Masonite also attracted interest, selling at $2,990.
DD Ryan’s couture did exceeding well, with a Halston beaded pants and jacket ensemble in bright orange selling to a New York institution at $3,737. Two Zandra Rhodes coats were actively pursued, with the lot selling at $3,450.
Two other Halston lots topped the selection, with each selling at $2,645. Included was a stylish silk quilted jacket combined with an equally stylish silk top, and another lot that consisted of a silk taffeta ruffled jacket and halter together with a black Halston skirt.
Costume jewelry was another passion of DD Ryan’s. Top designers represented included Chanel, Ciner, Mosell, Kenneth Lane and, the most sought-after from the group, Miriam Haskell.
The first lot of costume jewelry to cross the block consisted of a large assortment of necklaces, earrings and brooches, all unidentified by maker and with perhaps 50 pieces in the group. Estimated at $300/500, a bidding war erupted, with eBay bidders, phone bidders and several in the gallery pushing the price realized to $8,050. Another large group followed, with it hammering down at $2,530.
Things settled down as the next few lots were offered, until a smaller group consisting of nine necklaces, six pair of earrings and one bangle took off, selling at $3,565.
Three lots of Miriam Haskell pieces were up next, and a necklace with a matching pair of earrings and a brooch went out at $2,300. Two sets made up of a beaded necklace and matching earrings by Haskell sold at $3,738 each.
Two brooches by Chanel sold for $2,300, while a Kenneth Lane necklace and earclips brought $1,610.
A set of Frank Gehry laminated cardboard furniture from the Ryan estate did well, with a pair of easy edge wiggle stools selling at $5,175. A set of three nesting tables sold at $2,530, and three lounge chairs with minor condition problems brought $1,265. Other Gehry lots included a desk that sold for $863, a set of shelves at $920 and a sofa table brought $403.
Accessories included a pair of Nineteenth Century Continental silver mounted Chagrin urn-form perfume boxes that were chased by several in the crowd, as well as numerous telephone bidders. Estimated at $5/7,000, the lots, measuring just under 8 inches tall and fitted with five perfume bottles each, hammered down at $27,600.
A set of gold and bloodstone seals in anatomical forms †three in the form of arms with hands grasping the seal, the other having the seal mounted at the end of a leg †were also actively pursued, with the lot leaving the auction block at $23,000.
A Tiffany nautilus-form leaded glass shade in a pastel blue-green color mounted on a signed table lamp bronze base was another lot to do well; it sold for more than double the presale estimate at $18,400.
Ryan apparently had a penchant for paperweights as well, and a collection of 30 examples caught the eye of bidders. The top lot among the group was a lot of three concentric millefiore paperweights that sold well above the $300/500 estimate, bringing $5,750.
Paintings once again ruled the roost during Sunday’s estates and various owners portion of the auction.
“Basket of Spring Flowers Bathed in Sunlight,” a large oil on canvas by Abbott Fuller Graves, caught the attention of numerous collectors and the trade. Measuring 32 by 46 inches, the monumental oil became the top lot of the second session as it sold between estimates at $109,250.
A stunning Maxfield Parrish landscape titled “Sheep Pasture” and dated 1936 was sold along with a study sketch for the painting. Inscribed on the verso “Sheep Pasture, Cornish, N.H. / Maxfield Parrish 1936,” the oil on board, measuring 24 by 30 inches, went out at $97,750.
With renewed interest mounting for the artist, an Aiden Lassell Ripley hunting scene was another lot to attract a lot of attention. Titled “The Pond Cover,” the painting depicted two upland hunters working an open field surrounded by woods. It sold for $80,500. A Walter Launt Palmer winter landscape brought a surprising $54,625, while a portrait by Thomas Sully realized $33,350.
Other artwork of interest included a Hayley Lever landscape with house that sold for $10,350. Two paintings hammered at $16,100; an English School landscape with a factory and a fisherman, and an Antonio Cirino harbor scene titled “Lobsterman’s Rendezvous.”
A collection of French and Continental furniture and accessories consigned from a Rhode Island estate were subjected to spirited bidding throughout the day. Leading the way among the furniture was a Louis XV-style ormolu mounted fruitwood rouge marble top coiffeuse signed “Linke.” The large and ornate piece hammered down after spirited bidding at $35,650.
Other pieces in the Louis XV style included an ormolu mounted fruitwood inlaid marble top commode in the manner of Zwiener Jansen that was knocked down at $24,150, a fruitwood music cabinet sold for $19,550, and two Vernis Martin vitrines sold separately at $7,188 and $5,175.
A Tiffany ormolu mounted mantel clock with a large carved marble putto was hotly competed for, with it going out at $26,450. A nice pair of Louis XV-style carved white marble ormolu mounted lidded cassolettes signed “Jollet & Cie Bronzes, Paris,” realized $8,050, while a pair of 21-inch-tall Sevres ormolu mounted caved vases signed “Collot” brought $13,800. A late Nineteenth Century carved ivory German stein with gilt metal mounts sold at $13,800.
Items of interest to Americana enthusiasts included two Elmer Crowell decorative carvings, with a yellowlegs in a preening pose selling at $24,150, while a black bellied plover fetched $18,400.
A nice large Liverpool pitcher decorated with a Washington Memorial on the side and a large American eagle on the front did well at $10,350. Several Nantucket baskets fetched fair prices, with a large oval basket selling at $1,725, three nesting round baskets brought $4,025, and another set of three nesting baskets went out at $3,738.
All prices include the buyer’s premium charged.
The Tschebull collection of antique carpets will be offered next at Grogan & Company, with the sale taking place May 5. For information, 781-461-9500 or www.groganco.com .
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm