Published: May 14, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by W.A. Demers, Additional Photos Courtesy of Shannon’s Fine Art Auctioneers
MILFORD, CONN. – Shannon’s spring fine art auction on May 2 was advertised as a sure-fire attraction for international lovers of American, European and Asian art. The sale met that promise as nearly 250 lots comprising top-quality paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture crossed the podium with Peter Coccoluto calling the bids to a small in-house audience as well as the larger worldwide collectors patched in by phone and the internet. The sale totaled $2.1 million, and with a lot of post-sale activity delivered a 75 percent sell-through. There were 20 phone lines available for this sale, a testament to the growing trend of being able to participate in an auction whenever and wherever, plus there was an active Invaluable platform to funnel the online market. Managing partner Sandra Germain told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that there were a total of 400 phone bids for this sale.
Offered among the sale’s lineup were two particular highlights in Asian art – two paintings by French/Vietnamese Impressionist Le Pho (1907-2001). “Le Thé” (Tea Time), an oil on canvas, signed lower right “Le Pho,” 32 by 39½ inches and depicting two women at the table enjoying each other’s company, was the highest selling lot, achieving $100,000 against a $40/60,000 estimate. The other painting, “Harmonie Jaune” (Harmony in Yellow), depicting a woman arranging flowers in an interplay of colors and form, took $75,000, above its high estimate.
Germain commented, “We had a difficult time deciding which one we liked better, and our clients did, too. It was exciting to watch the energy and enthusiasm for these two lots. Despite significant phone competition from international clients, we were happy to see ‘Le Thé’ go to a buyer in the audience.”
Asian art again dominated with a contemporary sculpture by Taiwanese artist Li Chen (b 1963). “Harmonize without Compromise,” depicting a Buddha standing on a silver cloud – a classic motif in Asian art – made contemporary with the addition of silver headphones, proved Chen’s appeal on the international market by also realizing $75,000 and going home with a bidder in the room.
Germain said the gallery has a great history with the artist Le Pho, “and these came from a person from whom I had seen them a couple of years ago, and she decided that it was finally time to sell them – and we’ve already been offered one for the next sale. What happens is that when you have a good track record with an artist, you get more paintings by that artist.”
Another case in point is Johann Berthelsen, an artist that has done well before at Shannon’s. His rare “Nocturne (Statue of Liberty and Manhattan Skyline)” was the sale’s cover lot. It bested its $10/15,000 estimate to finish at $42,500. According to the artist’s son, Lee Berthelsen, Lady Liberty was one of Danish-born Johann’s first memories of New York City. He is known to have painted the scene on only one other occasion, contributing to the work’s rarity.
A rare painting of a young woman in a field by Alexander Harrison led the American Impressionist category. “Misty Morning” had all the hallmarks of American expatriate art in subject, style and composition. Likely exhibited in Paris in 1891, the work sold for $68,750.
The art world is increasingly seeing the name Christo Coetzee, a South African artist who works in mixed media to create powerful three-dimensional canvases, rise within the top tier of auction results. “Celestial Bicycle Number III,” 1961, which was on offer here, continued his meteoric rise. “I knew it was going to do well,” said Germain, “because I knew it was a very important piece by the artist – it came out of a lady’s basement in New Jersey. I had seen it there probably 15 years ago, and I’ve always remembered it. It was exhibited in Paris back in the 1960s.” The work sold for $75,000, setting a new record for the highest price achieved for the artist in America and the third highest price achieved worldwide.
International art maintained its momentum with a bronze “Disco” by contemporary Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro (b 1926). Displayed at the podium where auctioneer Coccoluto called the bids, the 8½-inch diameter piece from a private Florida collection jumped its $12/18,000 estimate twofold, selling for $40,000. Another bronze sculpture by the artist, “La Profezia,” 10¼ inches high, sold for $22,500. “Tragealiles,” a marble sculpture by Swiss Modernist Antoine Poncet, sold for $32,500. All the three sculptures came directly from the Florida estate.
“We’re happy to have had the international lots that we had, which drew a lot of activity,” said Germain. I don’t know if there has ever been a time in our history when our top four lots were not American art – but that’s okay because it goes to show that ‘if you build it, they will come.'” Of course, the American art on offer did not disappoint, as evidenced by the Alexander Harrison painting; Alfred T. Bricher’s rare view of Niagara Falls that brought $62,500; a James Fairman “View of Jerusalem,” which was bid to $62,500; and a Severin Roesen still-life that featured not only his trademark ripened fruit, but an effervescent flute of champagne, which stunned the crowd when it sold for $60,000. Also, a dreamy illustration by Pennsylvania artist Sarah S. Stilwell Weber (1878-1939), “Harmony in the Light of the Moon,” zipped past its $8/12,000 estimate to realize $40,000. Perennial Wall Street favorite Guy C. Wiggins contributed one of his Wall Street winterscapes for $30,000.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium, as stated by the auction house. Shannon’s will conduct an online-only sale on June 20 as well as its semi-annual cataloged live fine art auction on October 24 and is currently accepting consignments for both sales. For information, 203-877-1711 or www.shannons.com.
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