Published: June 1, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Skinner
MARLBOROUGH, MASS. – Leading Skinner’s May 21 sale of American and European Paintings and Sculpture was a mixed-media drawing by large-scale environmental artist Christo (American, 1925-2020), which brought $43,750. It was the highest price in an auction of nearly 225 lots that realized about $750,000 and was 86 percent sold by lot.
“It was a small sale and went well,” Robin Starr, Skinner’s director of American and European works of art said. “We were very pleased with the participation; we had tons of online bidding. We’re seeing more and more people want to bid online, even cancelling phone lines they’d reserved so they can bid online.”
The top lot recorded Christo’s September 1985 installation, in which he and his wife-collaborator, Jeanne-Claude, wrapped the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris. The project, which took ten years of negotiations to green-light, was installed for just 14 days and required the assistance of 300 workers and volunteers to bring to fruition. In that time, 450,000 square feet of silky golden sandstone-colored fabric completely wrapped the 761-foot-long, 72-foot-wide bridge while leaving it accessible to pedestrians and river traffic.
Each of Christo and Jean-Claude’s massive immersive projects were funded by the sale of preparatory drawings, which the artists did in part to record the technical aspects of their temporary installations. The example offered by Skinner was given by the artists to the seller, one of the project’s American engineers who worked with Christo and Jeanne-Claude on a volunteer basis.
The work had been authenticated by the artists’ office, which confirmed that it was registered in their files. It received interest from Boston area bidders as well as bidders in New York City and overseas; ultimately, it sold to an international buyer who was bidding online.
A still life of pink roses in a vase by Martin Johnson Heade (American, 1819-1904) achieved the second highest price in the sale, selling to a private collector bidding online for $40,625. Skinner showed the work to Heade expert Dr Theodore E. Stebbins Jr, who will include it in the next edition of the catalogue raisonné for the artist. Stebbins dated the painting to between 1860 and 1862, when Heade was first working in New York; it also makes it one of the earliest floral compositions by the artist. Noteworthy also was the presence of a marble tabletop rather a wooden one, which the artist employed with greater frequency.
A painting that was part of a collection of 20 or so works from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Boston rounded out the leaderboard for the sale. “Royal Colony – Colonial Scene” by Dean Cornwell (American, 1892-1960) sold to an American collector for $32,500.
Sporting art was gamely represented, with a watercolor by Ogden Minton Pleissner (American, 1905-1983) setting the high bar. “High Cliff at ‘Dog Pool,'” had been previously offered at Sotheby’s New York in 1987 and surpassed expectations, selling for $23,000. Maritime works were more sparsely on offer but a striking work by Montague Dawson (British, 1890-1973) sailed past its estimate to finish at $20,000.
For collectors of American Impressionism, two results were particularly noteworthy. “Woman at Tea in a Garden” by Mary Louise Fairchild MacMonnies (American, 1858-1946) shot to more than five times its high estimate at $27,500, while “In Boston Public Gardens” by Arthur Clifton Goodwin (American, 1866-1929) quadrupled its high estimate to realize $17,000. The painting had been included in a 1946 exhibit at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.
Skinner, which has historically combined its American and European fine art sales, is shaking things up in the coming months and will sell American works of art in September, and European works in a separate sale from modern and contemporary works. Sale dates have yet to be announced.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For information, 508-970-3211 or www.skinnerinc.com.
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