Published: September 15, 2020
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Abington Auction Gallery
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. – A gouache on paper by Alexander Calder (1898-1976) handily outperformed its $25/35,000 estimate to finish at $97,650 at Abington Auction Gallery’s September 2 late summer sale. Following close behind at $94,500 were bronze sculptures “Pair of Sitting Figures II,” 1973, by Lynn Russell Chadwick (1914-2003).
“Contemporary art is strong,” observed Chris B. Mayor, principal at Abington, which is enjoying great success and record sales. Just about a year before this most recent sale, Abington made local headlines when it sold a simple gray bowl, described as “something you’d find at a pet store,” which was both ancient and Chinese, eliciting a winning bid of $400,000 from an anonymous online bidder from California.
“There wasn’t a $400,000 item in this sale,” Mayor told Antiques and The Arts Weekly, “but I’d say it was our best sale across the board since the firm’s inception, and we’ve had some 50 or more.” The sale totaled in the region of $750,000 and hosted more than 5,000 registered bidders on the two online platforms. There was no in-gallery audience.
“In Mid-Ocean,” a playful evocation of sun, sea, sea creatures and Calder’s own hallmark forms, was signed and dated 1963, 29½ by 26 inches. The work is registered in the archives with the Calder Foundation. It was sold originally from the artist to Nicholas Guppy, who in turn sold it to Brook Street Gallery, London. The consignor purchased the painting in 1969 from Brook Street Gallery. Unframed, it now goes to a private Midwest collector or art broker, according to Mayor.
That buyer was on a shopping spree, as he was also the winner of the Lynn Chadwick bronzes, number 6 out of 6, signed on bottom. The firm thanked Sarah Marchant, Oxford, England, one the sculptor’s two daughters, for confirming the authentication. The two seated figures of a male and female measured 19¼ inches high by 23 inches deep by 14½ inches wide. The lot was accompanied by a hard cover book, Lynn Chadwick Sculptor by Dennis Farr & Eva Chadwick, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1990. A 2003 obituary in The New York Times for the British sculptor said, “Chadwick came of age as an artist after World War II, when a mood of existential anxiety converged with traditions of humanistic representation and Modernist abstraction. In the 1950s he developed a spiky vocabulary of skeletal lines and rough planes organized into generalized images of people or animals that evoked feelings of pain, rage and fear.
The juxtaposition of his seated figures next to the Calder gouache in the sale was no doubt unintentional, but Chadwick, too, dabbled for a while building mobiles similar to those by Calder, whose work was at first unknown to him. This led to Chadwick’s first solo exhibition at the Gimpel Fils Gallery in London in 1950. He later eliminated the kinetic elements of his sculpture.
A surprise, fetching $37,500, more than triple its high estimate, was an oil on canvas abstract painting by Ernest Briggs Jr (American, 1923-1984). Large at 94½ by 52 inches, it was signed and dated 1955 on front and back. Briggs was a second-generation Abstract Expressionist painter known for his expressive, sometimes calligraphic brushwork, his geometric compositions and revolution in abstract painting that secured New York City’s position as the art capital of the world in the post-World War II period.
Jewelry brought strong prices as well. A lady’s Art Deco diamond bracelet jumped to $20,650 from a $12/15,000 expectation. The flexible link bracelet in diamond, emerald and platinum showcased a central 1.25-carat old European cut diamond, bead set in a navette milgrain plaque accented with caliber cut emeralds. These were flanked with four approximately 1.10-carat each old European cut diamonds set in repeated pave pierced milgrain design. Approximate total diamond weight was 14 carats, and the 7-inch lot was accompanied by a double tongue box clasp with hidden safety catch.
More contemporary art was in store when an Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987) screenprint was bid to $18,750. From the artist’s “Death & Disaster” series, “Electric Chair,” 1971, this version was considered unique because of his use of more than two colors. Signed and dated in ballpoint pen and numbered with a rubber stamp on the reverse 116/250, the piece was unframed, measuring 35½ by 47.9 inches.
Pedro Friedeberg (Italian-Mexican, b 1936), the artist that brought us the iconic sculptural seat, the Hand Chair, was represented in this sale with a wall art relief in pen and ink on wood, signed lower right and dated 1970. Finishing at $18,750, the dimensional wall art on wood, visually vibrating with Op art pinwheels, hands and pueblo structures, measured 30 inches high by 25 inches wide.
An Italian modular vintage Safari sofa designed by Archizoom Associati beckoned with a final price of $12,500. Made originally in 1967 in Poltronova, Italy, the white polished fiberglass and animal print upholstery comprised three pieces, each of which seats two people and can be set up together or used separately. Each piece measured 51 by 51 by 24 inches.
The same price was attained by a Herve Telemaque (b 1937) painting. The Haitian French painter titled the vibrantly blue-hued oil on canvas work “Eclaireur.” It was signed, titled and dated 1962 on verso and measured 10¾ by 13¾ inches.
More than doubling its $4,000 high estimate was a sterling silver Hanukkah lamp by Moshe Zabari (Israeli American, b 1935). Photographed on his website and described as Hanukkah Lamp, 1967, the 6¾-inch-high piece had a total weight of 10.6 troy ounces. It had been presented to Rabbi Irving Lehrman, president of Synagogue Council of America in 1972, and sitting on a wooded presentation block with lucite box, it commanded $10,625.
A decorative arts highlight was a monumental Dale Chihuly (American, b 1941) bowl that went out at $10,310. The large art glass free-form bowl was 32 inches wide by 23 inches long and 10½ inches high, a swirl of blues, reds and some yellow. It was signed on the underside with what appeared to be a date of 1986.
Jade fanciers chased a Chinese jade carving to $10,000, more than triple the high estimate for the exceptional celadon carving with rich russet tones that was in the form of a mystical phoenix with a flowering sprig in its mouth. It measured 2¼ by 4¼ by 2½ inches. It is heading to mainland China.
A final price of $10,000 was also posted for a limited edition Leica x Hermes camera MP special edition set. It consisted of a silver-chrome Leica MP camera covered with calfskin supplied by Hermes and included a Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH lens, camera strap, camera dustbag, lens dustbag, instruction book, certificate of authenticity and box.
Modernist Paul Evans (1931-1987), a leading figure in the midcentury American studio and brutalist furniture movement who consistently pushed boundaries with his innovative approaches to metalsmithing and furniture-making, was also part of the mix. His Patchwork cabinet model PE-302 for Directional took $9,700. The small sideboard of patinated copper, steel and brass featured a slate top, two doors, the right side with one shelf, all raised on a pedestal base and measuring 42¼ by 21 by 30½ inches.
Perhaps one of the more traditional fine art highlights in the sale belonged to an Emile Albert Gruppe (American, 1896-1978) painting that rose to $9,375. Titled “Fishing the Grand Banks,” the 36-by-30½-inch oil on canvas was presented in a giltwood frame with museum plaque, signed lower right.
An art glass Hearts vase attributed to Loetz apparently won bidders hearts as it raced from a $300/400 estimate to leave the gallery at $9,000. Unsigned, it was also a surprise, said Mayor, “but in a case like that, we let the bidders decide the value.”
More Midcentury Modern furniture crossed the block in the form of a Philip and Kelvin LaVerne round coffee table in the Etruscan pattern with decorative base in acid etched patinated bronze and pewter. With a label on the bottom, the 47½-by-17¾-inch table made $8,440.
Additional sale highlights included a Donald Roller Wilson (b 1938) oil on wood painting of “Jane,” 1997, a winsome pug portrait, signed and dated middle top and presented in a beautiful gilt frame. The 4-by-6-inch painting with John Berggruen Gallery provenance as well as Donald Roller Wilson label earned $7,500.
A Gustave Serrurier-Bovy table and seven chairs, $7,500; a Gertrude Whitney (1875-1942) “Head of a Spanish Peasant” bronze, $7,200; and an Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) “Autumn” litho on paper, $6,560, were also notable.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. The firm’s next auction will take place in late October. For more information, www.abingtonauctions.com or 954-900-4869.
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