Published: June 19, 2018
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy Grogan & Company
BOSTON – Grogan’s $2.3 million auction on June 3 offered fresh-to-the-market fine art and several major pieces of estate jewelry. The company continues to refine its marketing and presentation of the material. A collection of 76 lots of drawings, watercolors, sketches and woodcuts by prominent American German expressionist Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956), including works that had been given to him by artist friends, sold for $711,992. A number of paintings sold in the five-figure range, and one, a large oil on silk work by Le Pho, finished above $100,000. A rare Kashmir sapphire ring, selling for more than $300,000, was one of two six-figure jewelry pieces to cross the block, and several finished in the mid to high five figures.
There was a gallery talk before the preview began two days prior to the sale. Lucy Grogan, vice president and jewelry department director, discussed and passed around for inspection some of the jewelry pieces, and Georgina Winthrop, fine art director, discussed the Feininger collection, how the auction house got it and its significance. Winthrop, who oversees the appraisal, research and cataloging of paintings, prints, photographs and sculptures, prepared a supplemental 16-page catalog for the Feininger collection.
Grogan’s presentation of the collection worked, with many of the works selling well over the estimates. The collection included more than 50 by Feininger – watercolors, drawings, sketches and woodblock prints. Many were inscribed for family members, using his familial nickname “Papileo.” The collection included more than a dozen works given to him by Franz Marc (1880-1916) another German Expressionist, as well as works by Otto Dix (1891-1969) and others. The collection had descended to Feininger’s son, T. Lux Feininger. Two ink and watercolor drawings by Feininger each sold for $48,800. One was titled “The Watchtower” and was inscribed “Merry Christmas” on the reverse. The other was an untitled work of five “Ghosties,” special works created for family and friends. An ink and watercolor untitled marine view sold for $39,600, and a pencil and gouache of “The Gate, Ribnitz,” brought $42,700. Topping the selection of drypoint etchings was “The Locomotive,” which realized $33,550.
Many of the Feininger works were purchased by Achim Moeller. He heads the Lyonel Feininger Project, dedicated to the study and preservation of Feininger’s works. Moeller Fine Art, a New York gallery, also sells works by the artist and has mounted several exhibitions of the artist’s work. Moeller is an expert on Feininger and is preparing a catalogue raisonné for the artist. He also provides certificates of authenticity for museums and auction houses selling Feininger’s works.
Feininger’s collection included 13 woodcuts given to him by Marc. Most of these sold in the $5,000 range, but two, bought by the same collector bidding in the room, did much better. “Horses Resting,” signed on the reverse by Marc’s wife Maria, brought $48,800, and “Birth of the Horses” reached $17,800. The collector was asked why the former did so much better than the others. “‘Horses Resting'” is a work that would be instantly recognized as having been done by Marc, even by those not familiar with this work,” he replied “He is particularly well known for his suite known as ‘Blue Horses’ and this work relates to that suite. I collect Marc’s work and I’m delighted to have been able to buy this one.” Also doing well, from the same collection, and also a gift to the artist, was a watercolor and pencil, “Portrait of Julia Feininger” by Dix, signed and dated 1922. It earned $67,100.
The sale started off strong, with the third lot selling for $30,500, more than double its estimate. It was “Country Canal View” by Spanish painter Martin Rico y Ortega (1833-1908). It was followed a few minutes later by “Lower Falls and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone” by Grafton Tyler Brown (18411918), the son of a freed slave and one of the first African American artists to depict Western scenes. It sold for $13,420. The painting is very similar to one owned by the Smithsonian. “Summer Afternoon (Grand Manan)” by Alfred Thomas Bricher (1837-1908) achieved $79,300. Bringing a six-figure price, $103,700, was “Les jeunes filles Ã la coupe de fruits,” an oil on silk by FrenchVietnamese artist Le Pho (1907-2001).
During the gallery talk, Lucy Grogan discussed the highlights of the jewelry selection, and she especially emphasized the platinum ring by J.E. Caldwell, with a 4.95-carat Kashmir sapphire, which sold for $317,200. She explained that sapphires from Kashmir are very rare and are considered to be the finest quality of these gemstones. She said that this was a large one, with very deep coloring. For the most part, mining of sapphires in Kashmir ended in the late Nineteenth Century. She said that it was possible that the ring would bring $200/300,000, “but one can never be sure.” A gentleman in the group asked her why the estimate – $20/30,000 – was so much less.
Grogan explained, “Auction estimates can serve a variety of purposes. In this case, because of the uncertainty of the final result, I didn’t want to raise the family’s expectations. I knew that our clients who would be interested in a sapphire of this quality would be aware of it and the estimate would not deter anyone. I know who our sapphire customers are, and we made sure that all knew about it.” The ring was accompanied by a GIA certificate stating that the stone was from Kashmir and had not been subjected to heat, which is sometimes used to enhance color.
Grogan also showed a gold, silver, diamond and natural pearl bracelet with an interesting story. The bracelet, set with 44 graduated natural pearls had been made circa 1895, and had originally belonged to Mrs Thomas A. Scott of Philadelphia. Scott, whose maiden name was Anna Riddle, was being courted by Andrew Carnegie, who, at the time worked for Thomas Scott, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Carnegie took the girl to work one day to introduce her to Scott, his boss, and Scott immediately took her off his hands. The bracelet sold for $36,600. It was accompanied by GIA certificate stating that the pearls were natural.
During the discussion of the diamonds in this bracelet, Grogan was asked about a recent New York Times article about artificial diamonds being developed by De Beers. She said, “De Beers has said that these diamonds, created in labs, would all be marked so that it would be known they were lab-grown. But they’re chemically identical to mined diamonds and might someday create confusion in the marketplace. They’ll be far less expensive than mined diamonds but will have all the properties of the mined stones.”
Grogan has previously discussed the firm’s use of Instagram to effectively promote jewelry sales. It continues to be an effective part of its marketing. A platinum and diamond ring in this sale, shown on Lucy Grogan’s Instagram page, caught the eye of a man in San Francisco, who wanted to buy a ring for his wife who was about to have their first child. He wanted to “upgrade” the ring he had given her before their marriage. He flew in from San Francisco, examined the ring and arranged to bid by phone. The ring sold for $28,365. It might have made a great romantic story, but the man was the underbidder. The business point of the story, however, is that Instagram is an important and useful marketing tool.
Grogan’s has also used Instagram for recruiting staff for the gallery. Taylor See, the auction coordinator, saw an Instagram ad in 2015 for a gallery assistant and has been working there ever since. She is married, 25 years old, a native of Las Vegas and is a graduate of Texas Christian University with a background in fashion merchandising. After graduating, she moved to Boston with a job in the fashion industry with a company that soon went out of business. Living on Beacon Hill, just a short walk from Grogan’s, she thought when she saw the job posting that it would be a perfect fit. When asked about her job, she replied, “I do a little bit of everything that’s required to keep the auctions and the gallery running smoothly. That includes working with clients and inventory management. I love the job. I’m usually the first person that someone entering the gallery or calling talks to, whether they’re buying or selling. I coordinate our appraisal services with clients and attorneys, and I go out on house calls with Georgina. We picked up the Feininger collection. I enjoy the kinds of things we deal with here, and I really like learning and dealing with the public.”
Decorative arts were topped by an unusual Lalique table and a six-piece Reed and Barton Art Nouveau tea and coffee service, circa 1900. It was sold with a complementary silver tray, and the seven pieces weighed 345 troy ounces, selling for $15,680. The Lalique “Cactus” crystal, glass and chrome table was 59 inches in diameter with the clear glass top supported on eight crystal legs in the form of outspreading cactus leaves. It sold for $32,940.
After the sale, Michael Grogan said he was quite happy with the results. “I liked the average price per lot. There were just about 400 lots and the gross was a little over $2 million, so that’s an average of about $5,000 per lot. Of course, we were delighted with the Feininger collection, and the jewelry was strong. We had a group of Edward Curtis photographs that sold well, and paintings of all types also did well. We’re dealing with estate material that’s almost always fresh to the market. That’s a big plus, and our clients know that. So it was a good sale and we’re looking forward to the next one.”
Prices are given with buyer’s premium, as reported by the auction house. Grogan & Co.’s Oriental rugs and carpets auction will be on July 18.
For additional information, www.groganco.com or 617-720-2020.
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