Published: March 28, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy Butterscotch Auction
BEDFORD, N.Y. — With 770 lots in a one-day sale, Butterscotch Auction’s March 18 whirlwind provided a little bit of everything. Bidders were offered fine art that spanned Old Masters to Modern works, furniture from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century, ephemera, Asian works, carpets, estate jewelry and, of course, plenty of surprises.
The sale boasted an 80 percent sell-through rate with a mix of solid performing lots and sleepers from estates in the tri-state area.
Brendan Ryan, appraiser and auctioneer at the gallery, said, “80 percent is really good for us. Almost all of the lots across the board seemed to do well.”
At top lot of the day, a fresh-to-the-market bronze sculpture from Kenneth Armitage reached $60,000. “Standing figure” was created in 1956 and rose 45¼ inches high. The piece showed a standing woman with her neck bent downwards, her right arm wrapped around her head in protection as the other is stretched outward in front of her, as if to part the path ahead. It was made by Armitage when he was creating works for the 1958 Venice Bienalle, where he exhibited reclining figures of similar form.
Bidders at Butterscotch know that the house has always excelled with traditional fine art, antiques and furniture. But like every other estate auction, the demand for Twentieth Century work is forcing a more diverse catalog than would have been 20 years ago. This sale featured a number of Modern artworks that performed well.
“Abstract art is not something that we are particularly known for, but everyone is after Twentieth Century art now,” said Ryan. “By comparison, we had some Nineteenth Century American paintings and they were not as easy to sell. We had a nice Charles Gruppe in this sale that did not sell, which probably 15 years ago would have brought $8,000 to $10,000. We had a $1,200 reserve and didn’t find a buyer. That’s keeping with how things have been going.”
Modern artworks from the Spiral group, a 1960s African American artists collective organized by Romare Bearden, fared quite well among the offerings. The works came from the collection of Dr Laura Hines, a former wife of Felrath Hines, who was a member of the group.
“The Felrath Hines paintings were the largest works of his to come on the market thus far,” said Ryan. “He worked in a number of different styles, the ones that we offered were more experimental in color gradation and a little less structural compared to his other works.”
Two large oil works by Hines exceeded their high estimates in the sale. An untitled abstract painting with greens and blues brought $9,000 on a $5,000 high estimate. Another abstract, this one titled “The Island,” dated 1962 with purples, blues and greens doubled the $6,000 high estimate to land at $13,200.
To say that the Dr Laura Hines collection of works from the Spiral group was fresh would be an understatement. The auction house was doing an estate appraisal in Greenwich where they found the collection in a storage unit. Dr Laura Hines had passed away at this point and it was a part of the estate of Hines’ second husband.
Abstract and dreamy works by another Spiral artist, Norman Wilfred Lewis, sold well from the Hines collection. Three works sold north of $10,000, all mixed media and produced in the 1950s and 1960s. The top lot from Lewis was a 16½-by-21¾-inch mixed media on paper titled “Figures on an orange ground,” that sold above high estimate for $21,600. The work featured a winding, ascending line of figures over a desert-like background of deep and light oranges mixed over dark gray areas.
Spiral began in Romare Bearden’s living room, where it met weekly to discuss the role of African Americans in the civil rights movement, politics and ultimately their role as artists of the time. The collective produced one exhibition in 1965 and then ceased to be in the same year. Spiral received a retrospective exhibition at the Birmingham Museum of Art in 2010 and the Studio Museum in 2011.
One of the largest surprises of the day came in the form of an Old Master painting. After a lively bidding match, a phone bidder snatched up the painting for $20,400, well over its $2,500 high estimate. The work depicted a seemingly tired young blonde woman in a vivid red dress with loose, short white sleeves holding a basket of fruit, a sun hat tied around her neck and hanging off her back. The painting came from the estate of Elizabeth Luther, a New York City resident, with all proceeds going to Old Sturbridge Village.
From the same Luther estate came a Polish bronze by Feliks Khodorovich featuring a Georgian soldier on horseback moving his family. A small boy pokes his head out from the front satchel on one side, a small goat in the satchel on the opposite side, while his daughter hugs the rider from behind, the side of her face pressed against his back as if she was protecting herself from a cold headwind. The sculpture went over high estimate and fetched $19,200.
A fair trade manuscript of the lyrics to “America the Beautiful” found a buyer at $6,600. The work was handwritten and signed by the songwriter Katharine Lee Bates. It came from the same autograph collection in Greenwich, Conn., where Brendan Ryan discovered an autographed leaflet from Beethoven that sold for $120,000 in 2015.
A pair of Paul Evans “Argente” side tables, split into two lots, sold to a single buyer at a combined price of $18,000. The “Argente” line, with its patchwork black and silver panels incised with scratched designs and textured surfaces, is considered the artist’s most valuable line of furniture and continues to reach prices above the norm.
The firm’s next sale will be July 16.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.butterscotchauction.com.
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