Published: May 4, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Shapiro Auctions
MAMARONECK, N.Y. – In the words of Gene Shapiro, Shapiro Auctions’ April 24-25 International Fine and Decorative Art Auction was “the best sale we have ever had and one of the largest in terms of the totals; we sold $2,819,000.” In the span of two days, the Westchester, N.Y., firm dispatched nearly 900 lots in two marathon sessions that each lasted eight hours.
“The auction itself was buzzing with activity. Not only did we have a tremendous amount of internet bidding on five platforms, but extensive phone bidding as well as absentee bids. We take a highly tailored and broadly global approach not only to the types of material we offer, but also to the bidding platforms we make available, our communication with buyers, and the global advertising that we undertake. As a consequence, this auction lived up to its ‘international’ title. Most importantly, the results were strong across the board, from American to Austrian, proving that it is the quality of the material, coupled with robust advertising, that is the winning formula in today’s auction world. Also, as time goes on, I notice that the bidding threshold for online bidders has increased – they are certainly more and more comfortable bidding at ever higher amounts online, and this looks to be the trend of the future,” added Shapiro.
Shapiro is fluent in Russian and has made a name for himself – and a niche – in the market for Russian works. The sale featured several strong results for Russian objects and works of art but the top lot of the sale came for a work by Austrian artist Alfons Walde (1891-1958), which was acquired by an Austrian buyer for $275,000. The painting, titled “Bauernsonntag” or “Bavaria Sunday,” depicted two robust men wearing Tyrolean aprons standing in a snowy Alpine landscape, the white of the snow making a striking contrast to the deep blue of the sky. It had originally been acquired by Kamillo and Aenne Koelblinger of Austria, who were friends of the artist and who passed it to Henrich Walter Koelblinger (1941-2020); it was being sold by a descendant.
Walde, who is considered a master of Alpine landscapes, produced this painting among a series of others sometime in the early 1930s. The picture was done in oil on cardboard and measured 20-7/8 by 20-7/8 inches; the artist’s studio label was affixed to the back of the painting. It relates, compositionally, to a work in the Stadtische Galerie in Nuremberg that was illustrated in Gert Ammann’s 2001 book, Alfons Walde, 1891-1958.
Russian works of art achieved the second and third highest prices in the sale. Charging past its estimate was “Arabic Horse Games,” the largest and most expensive sculpture made by Eugene Lanceray (Russian, 1848-1886) around 1884 and cast at the F. Chopin foundry. Shapiro had offered it previously in November 2020 with a higher estimate, though a lower estimate this sale of $65/85,000 proved just the ticket to tempt buyers and it sold to a Russian bidder for $137,000.
The market for contemporary Russian works of art is also strong. “Birth of a Hero,” a set of 15 painted bronze sculptures by Grisha Bruskin (Russian, b 1945), was dated 1987 and had been included in the 1998-2002 exhibition, “Forbidden Art: The Postwar Russian Avant-Garde,” which toured globally to venues in Pasadena, Calif.; Moscow and St Petersburg, Russia; Oxford, Ohio; Brighten, Mass.; Gainsville, Fla.; and Laramie, Wyo. The provocative work, which depicted a series of standing white-painted figures, some holding emblems, sold within estimate, to a buyer in Russia for $125,000.
“Ferris Wheel (In Memory of Artist Evgeny Rukhin)” by Oscar Rabin (1928-2018) had also been included in the “Forbidden Art” exhibition and sold for $56,250 to a Russian buyer. The 1977 oil on canvas work will be included in the catalogue raisonné for the artist, which is being prepared by Marc Ivasilevitch.
Works by Vietnamese-French artists Le Pho (1907-2001), Vu Cao Dam (1908-2000) and Mai Trung Thu (1906-1980) kicked off the sale and many exceeded expectations. “Coupe de fruits” by Mai Trung Thu was executed in ink and gouache on silk laid on paper and depicted two figures at a low table with fruit; it brought $95,250. Both “Le Pavots” by Le Pho and “Divinite” by Vu Cao Dam had provenance to the Wally Findlay Galleries, selling for $39,000 and $38,100, respectively. All of the works were purchased by bidders in Vietnam.
Shapiro said he had done a lot of advertising and promotion for Francis Speight’s (American, 1896-1986) “San Souci Ferry, Spring” but he was nonetheless surprised at how well the landscape by the North Carolina artist did. Several bidders from North Carolina competed for the work, which sailed beyond its $5/7,000 estimate to sell to a collector in North Carolina for $81,250. The work had been consigned to Shapiro from a private collection in Connecticut but had provenance to the Southern Pines, N.C., estate of Veronese Beatty Atkins as well as the Vero Beach, Fla., estate of Calvin Beatty Atkins. The painting was included in a 1984 retrospective exhibition of the work of the artist, who studied with Daniel Garber at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he remained as both student and teacher. Both the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia and the Cashie River in North Carolina were popular subjects for him.
The contemporary American artist Paul Jenkins (1923-2012) saw competition for “Phenomena Rope the Wind,” which soared to $48,750, selling to a buyer in Israel for more than double its low estimate. The 1979 acrylic on canvas was good sized at 50 by 78 inches and had provenance to Gimpel & Witzenhoffer of New York City, as well as being offered at Sotheby’s New York in 1986.
Armenian artist Martiros Saryan (1880-1972) was represented by four works in the sale, at least three of which were from the estate of Levon Airapetian. Leading the group was the boldly colored “Poppies and Daffodils in Glass Vase” from 1926, which exceeded expectations and sold for $44,450. Also from the Airapetian estate was “Field Flowers,” a 1947 oil on canvas that made $25,000, and a 1952 oil on canvasboard landscape titled “Winter Etude,” which had been given to Airapetian by Ruzan Lazarevna Saryan. It made $10,000. “Apple Orchard,” the only one of Saryan’s works not from the Airapetian estate, had provenance to Cornette de Saint Cyr in Paris, where the seller had acquired it in 2011. It brought $31,250. All of the works were purchased by different American buyers, all of which are of Armenian descent.
Even though the highest prices realized on the first day of the sales were for fine art, the 392-lot session featured about 175 lots of furniture, decorative arts and jewelry. “This sale had a lot of high-quality decorative things,” Shapiro said. “Everyone has been saying that antiques are out of fashion but our decorative arts still sell well and prove there’s still a demand for them.”
Proving that very point was a pair of Twentieth Century Baccarat ormolu and cut crystal vases that stood 19¼ inches high and were described as “monumental.” The pair made ten times the low estimate, closing at $22,500 to an American buyer and just slightly ahead of a pair of French ormolu mounted porcelain vases in deep cerulean blue, the feet stamped “Millet a Paris,” which topped off at $21,250.
A three-piece industrial steam-driven clock and candelabra garniture, made by Guilmet of Paris around 1900, tripled its high estimate and brought $15,600 from an American buyer. Silver lots were headlined by an early Nineteenth Century covered soup tureen decorated with a hunting scene of elk, dogs and a huntress. Though the marks were effaced, it was likely of French manufacture and was bid to $13,750.
Nearly 500 lots traded hands on the second day of the sale, which saw a top price of $12,500, achieved by a Russian Faberge-style silver and shaded cloisonné enamel serving dish. Bringing $6,875 was a 1926 maple Italo-Argentine violin made by Mariano Militello that had a label that read “Exposicion Internacional Higiene, Arte e Industras / Primer Gran Premio y Medallio de Oro / Rosario,” and was accompanied by a bow and case.
Shapiro Auctions’ next sale will be in the late summer, date to be announced.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For additional information, www.shapiroauctions.com or 212-717-7500.
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