Published: November 7, 2000
Trade News from around the World
In the news this week are tales of fine art and sour grapes. A lawsuit filed October 30 in Erie County Common Pleas Court, Ohio, by antiques dealer Ronald Showalter states that a painting of a dog he sold to New York City art dealer William Secord for $7,500 was worth considerably more. According to the Associated Press, Showalter’s lawsuit contends that Secord, of William Secord Gallery, did not tell him about the painting’s true worth. The painting and subject of the lawsuit is “Retriever and Woodcock” by Nineteenth Century English painter Sir Edwin Landseer. A few months after buying the painting from Showalter, Secord sold it at Christie’s on December 3, 1998 for $140,000, according to both the lawsuit and Christie’s.
Showalter may find his battle will be waged uphill, as a Phoenix, Ariz. Court of Appeals panel on November 1 upheld a Superior Court ruling in November 1998 in favor of the Tucson couple who bought two paintings from the estate of Martha Nelson in 1996 and resold them at a Christie’s auction for $1 million, reports the Associated Press. The court ruled the woman’s estate was “a victim of its own folly.” Estate representatives were unaware that the paintings sold to Carl and Anne Rice were by Nineteenth Century artist Martin Johnson Heade. The estate sought to overturn the sale, arguing that it was based upon a mutual mistake regarding the paintings’ value.
And on the same note, a bench trial was conducted October 27 before state District Judge John C. Brackley, who will issue a decision in the coming weeks regarding a lawsuit filed by Claude Abel, of Boise, Idaho. Abel contends that Sheridan, Wyo. businessman Rick Kenyon illegally purchased for $25 a painting by the famous Western artist Bill Gollings, worth up to $30,000, which was accidentally placed in a box headed to the Salvation Army two years ago. Kenyon, who runs a consignment business in Sheridan, says he purchased the Gollings work in good faith and is not obligated to return it, the Associated Press reports. Abel had been placed in charge of settling the estate of the painting’s owner, said his aunt Rillie Taylor. Somehow, the painting ended up in a box that Salvation Army crews picked up.
Carol Vogel writes in the November 1 edition of The New York Times that Sotheby’s and Christie’s are not yet over their legal woes: another class-action lawsuit filed October 31 on behalf of customers of the auction houses contends that several executives of both firms – including Max M. Fisher, the former vice chairman of Sotheby’s, and Daniel P. Davison, who served as chairman of Christie’s (US) from 1989-93 – were aware of the collusion to fix premiums and made no effort to stop it. Sotheby’s denied these latest charges and Christie’s refused to comment. Also named were Christie’s board vice chairman Christopher Burge, Stephen S. Lash and Francois Curiel and former employee Patricia Hambrecht, as well as Sotheby’s former president and chief executive Michael L. Ainslie and former executive vice president and COO Kevin A. Bousquette.
Also in the November 1 edition of the Times Ms Vogel, in her overview of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art sales during the next two weeks, comments upon the emergence of London-based Phillips auction house as a major player in this sales arena. Vogel describes both Sotheby’s and Christie’s Impressionist and modern catalogues as “bloated with second-rate paintings, drawings and sculptures that carry high estimates.” According to Vogel, the 29 works offered by Phillips – which includes creations by Cezanne, Renoir, Matisse and Picasso – represent the “kind of art that experts at Sotheby’s and Christie’s would have liked to include in their sales, [but] they were unwilling to risk guaranteeing sellers the high prices necessary to snag them.” Vogel points out, however, that many in the trade are questioning Phillips method of disclosing its interest in nine lots, as well as its third-party guarantee of two landscapes by Cezanne and Renoir. In addition, according to several dealers who requested anonymity in the article, Simon de Pury’s position as auctioneer for Phillips’ two evening sales gives him “confidential information on the strategies of the bidders and the auction house that he can use in his own dealings” as a private art dealer and adviser.
Phillips’ new status, perhaps, has prompted the firm’s agents to sign a lease for a larger North American flagship building at 3 West 57th Street at Fifth Avenue in New York City. The 12-story, 60,000 square foot building will house salerooms, exhibition galleries and specialist departments. Designed by architect Adolph Lanchen Muller, the 1947 sandstone building features Art Deco-style architectural detail with a pink granite, glass and metal entranceway. The 5,000 square-foot ground floor, formerly occupied by the Greenwich Savings Bank, has a double-height ceiling and a column-free space. The main saleroom is expected to have capacity for approximately 500 people.
Gordon Gilkey, 88, curator of the Portland Art Museum’s prints and drawings collection, Oregon, died October 28 at Providence Portland Medical Center after a long illness, according to the AP wire. Gilkey founded the museum’s Vivian Center for the Graphic Arts, and was considered one of Oregon’s leading cultural experts. During World War II, he told the U.S. Army Air Corps which monuments should be spared from bombing and he was one of the first to return art stolen by the Nazis. Gilkey was a professor of art for 50 years, an illustrations adviser to Winston Churchill and a knight in six countries. He also made, traded and collected prints. His personal collection totaled 14,000 prints that dated from the Renaissance to the modern day.
Dorothy Hood, who befriended Mexican artist Jose Clemente Orozco and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, and whose abstract works hang in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the National Gallery in Washington, died October 29 of cancer, AP reports. Her lush, abstract paintings have been frequently compared to the best American color-field painters such as Helen Frankenthaler. Hood’s work was included in shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1958 and 1959, and in solo exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 1963 and 1975. Her work also was shown at the Contemporary Arts Museum in 1970, as well as numerous group shows in Houston and elsewhere.
During the month of December, AntiquesAmerica.com will present several articles on early American toys and games, and a slideshow featuring Noel Barrett on “Identifying Original and Reproduction Cast-Iron Toys and Banks.”
San Jose, Calif.-based online auction site eBay Inc will stop publishing its 15-month-old magazine after the December issue, company spokesman Kevin Pursglove said October 31. EBay’s contract with the magazine’s publisher, Wisconsin-based Krause Publications, is expiring and the two sides decided not to renew it by mutual agreement, Pursglove said. EBay has forged so many partnerships to promote its Web site that the company probably decided that it no longer made financial sense to publish a magazine, analyst Safi Rashtchy of U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray told the Associated Press.
Haleysteele.com has launched an interactive service for sending antique images as e-greeting cards. The Web version of the 101-year-old, Boston-based art dealership Haley & Steele will use images from its collection of antique engravings for this venture.
President Clinton has signed a bill to change the name of the National Museum of American Art to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the museum told AP October 31. The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., runs 22 museums and research institutes, including the National Zoo. “As we send more and more traveling exhibits across the country and create affiliations with museums in all 50 states, it’s important for people to be able to recognize instantly that the Smithsonian has come to their town,” Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small said in a statement.
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