Published: May 22, 2012
The April 25 auction of American and European Art at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art was a huge success on all sides, according to Barridoff Galleries principals Annette and Rob Elowitch.
“Best in years. Thanks to everyone, the pair tweeted on the Twitter website a couple of days after the sale.
Auction house co-principal Rob Elowitch was more expansive after the sale, saying, “It was the best in years and years. It was magic, with a congenial atmosphere at the Institute of Contemporary Art. They were thrilled, we were thrilled, and we saw people there that we have never seen before.”
The postsale metrics of the $1 million sale revealed some high prices, especially for some of the 140 works that were in the John Day collection of Twentieth Century paintings and sculpture by artists of Monhegan Island, which, according to Elowitch, have an obvious “local” as well as international interest. It certainly did not hurt that the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, recently opened an exhibition on two artists connected to the island in “Jamie Wyeth, Rockwell Kent and Monhegan,” on view to December 20.
There were a few challenges in conducting the sale at the institute, including a lack of landline phones for those bidders. With anywhere from 12 to 15 cellphones dedicated to the endeavor, however, the logistics proved to be manageable. There were 136 in-house participants, along with 200 bidders registered online and another 95 registered to bid by phone.
A portion of the proceeds of the sale of the Day collection were earmarked to be donated to the Monhegan Museum and Pace Gallery at Freyburg Academy. Day is the director of the Palmina F. & Stephen S. Pace Galleries of Art at Freyburg Academy. Catalog notes stated that “his private collection is an extraordinary way to understand and appreciate how the artists of the mid-Twentieth Century on Monhegan Island influenced and were influenced by the Twentieth Century movements in art.”
A portion of the proceeds of the entire sale went to help support Maine College of Art and its programs.
While Monhegan Island was a particular focus of the sale, the top lot, an oil on canvas painting by John Sloan (American, 1871‱951), depicted, as its title indicated, “Gloucester Seacoast.” The 19¾-by-24-inch work created in the artist’s first summer in Gloucester came from a private collection. Elowitch said he countered some of the insider “gossip” that sometimes acts as a price retardant on artworks by being totally transparent with regard to the painting’s provenance. “We clearly stated in the catalog notes its provenance as well as its exhibition history,” he said. Estimated $50/75,000, the painting went to an absentee bidder at $84,000.
“A great painting,” said Elowitch of the Martin Lewis (American, 1881‱962) work that realized $49,200 from a private collector bidding by phone from the Midwest. “Shadow Pattern,” depicting a group of children playfully passing time near a shadow-striped patch of urban ground beneath a train trestle, had “all the bells and whistles,” according to Elowitch. He chuckled to recall that when the auction house got a request to make a house call at the home of the consignor, the purpose initially was to evaluate an Aldro Thompson Hibbard painting. “When we got there, the Martin was hanging on the wall next to it,” said Elowitch, adding, “and it ended up bringing more money.”
There were two paintings by French Nineteenth Century artist Luigi Loir (1845‱916) among the sale’s top ten lots. Loir’s ability to synthesize figures and landscape to produce a realistic impression of activity along the Parisian streets was clearly on parade in “Evening, Champs-Elysees,” 18 by 26 inches, which brought $48,000. The painting was consigned by someone who had in turn acquired it from the son of the actor Helen Hayes, and Elowitch said that upon examination it was determined that a masking vanish that had been applied to the sky area was not helping its prospects at auction.
So it was sent out to a professional restorer who “brought the sky back 100 percent improved,” said Elowitch. It was won by the London trade. The other Loir also went to the London trade, bringing $14,400 for the scene of a nanny watching a child playing with hoop sticks in a busy Paris neighborhood.
Rounding out the sale’s top ten lots, an untitled work by Marguerite Zorach, circa 1913, was purchased for $43,200 by the same bidder who won the Sloan; the Hibbard, titled “Spring Thaw, Vt.,” went to a Rhode Island dealer for $17,400; and “Gulls at Monhegan III” by Andrew Winter (American, 1893‱958) changed hands for $16,200. A Robert Spear Dunning evocation of cherries went out at $15,600, while a Modern work by Michael Loew (American, 1907‱985), “Counterpoint in Reds and Blues,” 1982, gaveled at $10,800, and Cuban artist Osvaldo Gutierrez’s (1917‱997) Modernist still life “Fish and Flowers” brought $10, 320.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
The firm’s next auction will be in October, once again at Maine College of Art. Barridoff is now accepting consignments. For information, www.barridoff.com or 207-772-5011.
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