Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Ahlers & Ogletree
ATLANTA, GA. – During the two days Ahlers & Ogletree, Inc., devoted to its Spring Fine Estates & Collections sale March 27-28, more than 1,100 lots were offered on three online platforms supplemented by phone and absentee bidding. Nearly 93 percent traded hands and a cumulative auction total came in just short of its aggregate high estimate at $1,855,444.
It was a new all-time high total for the Atlanta firm.
“It was an incredibly strong auction overall, and our highest-hammering auction in company history,” said Elizabeth Rickenbaker, the firm’s director. “We’re very pleased. It very exciting to have results like that.”
The top lot of the weekend was Arnaldo Pomodoro’s (Italian, b 1926) bronze titled “Sfera,” which was done in 1976 in an edition of six, plus an artist proof. The work appears in the artist’s online catalogue raisonné and had recently been conserved by the Atlanta Art Conservation Center. Estimated at $80/120,000, the lot had provenance to a private Gainesville, Ga., collector and the Atlanta gallery she acquired it from that had represented the artist locally. It sold to a buyer in Ireland, bidding on the phone, for $181,500. “We had five phone bidders on it and four were from Italy, which I had expected. We have handled many of his two two-dimensional works but this was the first bronze of his that we’ve sold,” Rickenbaker said.
Pomodoro’s bronze may have been the top lot of the weekend, but a collection of five lots of furniture by George Nakashima (American, 1905-1990) took five of the top seven prices realized on the first day of the auctions and achieved a total of $153,670 against a cumulative low/high estimate range of $52/76,000. All lots were offered consecutively and came from the Tucson, Ariz., estate of a woman who had acquired them all directly from Nakashima in the late 1960s. They were consigned by her daughter, who lives near Atlanta.
Rickenbaker continued, “The story that the daughter passed along was that it was her job – from a fairly young age – to oil the pieces and she took great pride in their care. Once her mother passed away, she felt that the pieces needed to be seen by the world. There was a lot of emotion tied to their sale but she is absolutely thrilled with how we marketed them, and the result they achieved.”
The first of the group was a walnut “Minguren” coffee table made in 1966 with rosewood butterfly and several raw edges and a natural reticulation. The table had initially been directly acquired from the artist and was accompanied by its original documentation that included a receipt, handwritten purchase order, printed finishing instructions and graphite sketch plans by Nakashima. Estimated at $20/30,000, it brought the most of the group, selling for $72,600 from a buyer in the United States bidding online.
The coffee table was followed by a “Conoid” cross-legged side or end table, which was made in 1967. It had also been acquired directly from Nakashima and its original delivery receipt from Nakashima Studios was accompanied by copies of its invoice, handwritten purchase order and printed finishing instructions. Another online buyer from the United States took it to $27,225 from a $12/18,000 estimate.
The second highest price realized for a Nakashima piece was $39,325 for a walnut hanging wall cabinet with two sliding doors lined with pandanus cloth. Its original sketch drawing was included with the lot, as well as copies of the receipt, printed finishing instructions, handwritten purchase order and the 1967 delivery receipt from Nakashima Studios. It sold to an agent in the United States who was bidding by phone; they also purchased the last two of the Nakashima lots: four cherry “New” side chairs that achieved $21,780 and a cherry turned leg dining table with natural edge and rosewood butterflies that flew to $16,940.
A sweeping desert sunset was depicted in Ed Mell’s (American, b 1942) “Western Landscape,” which an American buyer, bidding on the phone, purchased for $39,325. It was a very large and early example of the artist’s work, which Rickenbaker said had been used in a lot of the promotion for the sale.
A considerable selection of the modern art in the sale came from the Atlanta estate of Adrienne Anderson, who Rickenbaker said was an artist in her own right. Rickenbaker pointed out five printed works by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo (1899-1991) that had been part of Anderson’s estate and which attracted several phone lines, all from bidders in Mexico. Rickenbaker said she had been on the phone with an authority on Tamayo who was “impressed at the high prices we were getting for the works.” All lots sold to buyers in Mexico, with the colored etching “Malabarista” bringing the group’s top price of $4,235. The rest of the works, all etchings, sold for prices between $2,420 and $3,630.
The house was selling about 75 lots – spread over both sessions – from the Atlanta estate of Richard D. and Gail M. Royston, with several lots from the estate surpassing expectations. Leading the offerings was an abstract mixed-media work by Ida Kohlmeyer (American, 1912-1997), an artist who was represented in New Orleans and, because of the frequency with which she sees her work, Rickenbaker thought may have been locally represented as well. “Cluster Drawing” from 1975 sold to an online buyer for $16,940.
The Roystons had collected traditional and representational art in addition to abstract works, with Carroll Sargent Tyson Jr’s (American, 1877-1956) “Seascape” from 1914 being one of them. The oil on canvas had provenance to Hirschl & Adler Galleries of New York City and was accompanied by an exhibition catalog. It nearly doubled its low estimate when an online buyer took it to $13,310.
Another highlight from the Royston estate was a sterling snake belt or necklace, which had been designed by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. The Italian designer passed away on March 21 and when we asked if her death sparked any additional interest in the piece, Rickenbaker said that there had been a lot of interest in the piece before she passed away. It sold to an American buyer, bidding online, for $8,470.
The Atlanta estate of Forest “Tag” Hunter, who Rickenbaker said “bought from the world’s leading auctions,” was another noteworthy component of the weekend’s sales, with approximately 300 lots crossing the block. Topping the offerings was a stunning Chinese summer robe with dragon motif that Hunter had acquired in 2018 from Leslie Hindman for about $5,500. Estimated at $5/7,000, it soared to $10,890 from an American buyer bidding online.
An armorial sterling silver tureen bearing maker’s marks for Joseph Craddock and William Ker Reid, 1817, was the top seller in the second session. It bore the Langton family coat of arms and had been acquired from Marques Dos Santos in 2018. A local buyer more than doubled its low estimate, acquiring it for $9,075.
Ahlers & Ogletree’s next sale will be May 15.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
For information, 404-869-2478 or www.aandoauctions.com.