Published: March 1, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring. Photos Courtesy Hindman
CHICAGO – Launching a new sale can be a risky venture for auctioneers, who tend to stick to tried and true formats, but when Hindman had a gap in its first quarter calendar, and enough material to justify a new sale, it made the leap of faith. Debuting on February 17 was “Somewhere Out There,” a nearly 200-lot sale featuring works across a variety of categories, including Surrealist, Outsider, Psychedelic, Street Art, Magical Realist, Avante Garde, Pop, Visionary and Activist. By any measure, the sale was a resounding success, nearly tripling its presale expectations and achieving $970,656 with a sell-through rate of more than 84 percent.
“Almost a week after the sale, we’re still just reveling in its success,” Zack Wirsum, Hindman’s senior specialist, for postwar and contemporary art said. “We identified a hole in our first quarter auction schedule, which has historically been a quieter time for fine art. A great takeaway from the pandemic is traditional scheduling doesn’t matter as much. We wanted to do something themed rather than category-specific, something that crossed genres. In Chicago, there’s an appreciation for Outsider, Surreal and the work of the Chicago Imagists. We wanted to do a sale that focuses on that work. It was a nice curated, cohesive sale with success for both high end and entry level work.”
Wirsum and his team built the sale around Gertrude Abercrombie’s (American, 1909-1977) “The Dinosaur,” which was consigned for sale late in 2021. The 7½-by-9½-inch oil on panel depicted a large ostrich egg and a tiny dinosaur in a barren landscape that combines the artist’s distinctive simplicity with personal references to an ostrich egg she dreamed of and subsequently acquired. The Chicago-based Surrealist artist’s oeuvre has only recently been celebrated on a global level and the work attracted some international interest but, in the end, it sold to a buyer in the United States – outside of the Chicago area – who paid $387,500 and set a new world record for the artist.
Hindman also holds the current record ($324,500) for Chicago Imagist Gladys Nilsson, who was represented in the sale with two works. Of the two, her “Seams Strait,” from 1974, brought the higher price at $17,500. Interest in Chicago Imagist works has gradually expanded beyond Illinois and this will be leaving the area as well.
If the top lot was on the small size, the second place finisher was massive, measuring more than 8 by 17 feet, a size “not everyone has wall space for,” Wirsum said. William Anastasi’s (American, b 1933)’s untitled (Bababad XI) acrylic on canvas from 1988 nearly doubled its high estimate and sold for $93,750 to a buyer in Germany who had not previously bought from Hindman.
Rounding out the leaderboard, and selling for $87,500 was Joe Coleman’s (American, b 1955) 1995 acrylic on panel work titled, “Give Me That Old Time Religion,” which sold to a Midwest collector. It was a piece Wirsum had been trying to get for sale for a few years, but the theme of the auction sealed the deal with the seller.
International bidders were out in force, bringing several works back to their countries of origin. These included “My-Side-Your Side” by Yannis Gaitis (Greek, 1923-1984), which sold to a Greek buyer for $37,500 against an estimate of $15/25,000. An untitled bronze sculpture, originally thought to be by a British artist but which turned out to be an incomplete work by French artist, Philippe Hiquily (1925-2013), brought $15,000 from a French buyer, and a Czechoslovakian bidder acquired Czechoslovakian artist Jiri Anderle’s “Space and Time” for $12,500.
“Our first attempt at launching this franchise, as it were, was met with critical and financial acclaim,” Wirsum said. “This will definitely run back in the next first quarter.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, www.hindmanauctions.com or 312-280-01212.
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