Published: September 1, 2020
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy DuMouchelle Art Gallery
DETROIT, MICH. – The two-day sale at DuMouchelle Art Gallery on August 20-21 offered a combined 879 lots; according to Invaluable, more than 750 lots sold from the podium for a sell-through rate of more than 87 percent. Bidding was available by phone, absentee and online with DuMouchelle’s dedicated platform, Invaluable and LiveAuctioneers. For the first time since March, the auction house opened its doors for a three-day by-appointment preview, though firm president Joan Walker said traffic through their galleries was light, with many clients still reluctant to come in and look at things in person. Despite that, she was upbeat about the result of the sale.
“We were significantly restricted in our ability to procure artwork over the last several months and are grateful that several prominent estates and collectors gave us the opportunity to offer a wide variety of fresh-to-market quality items. Our success during these times has been a direct result of their support, as well as to our amazing staff who have worked tirelessly over these many months. Our 15,000 square feet of space in our building has enabled us to operate with appropriate social distancing and precautions.”
Prior to the pandemic, DuMouchelles revamped its marketing programs with a heightened focus on online local, national and global bidders, a strategy that has reaped a growth in their online bidder community of more than 120 percent. More than 3,000 bidders registered online for the sale from countries around the world.
Among the prominent estates and collections that crossed the block were four works by Michigan artist Marshall Maynard Fredericks (American, 1908-1998); all had been consigned by the family of the artist and all were offered consecutively, kicking off the second day of sales. Fredericks’ bronze sculpture with turquoise blue patina, “Clown Musicians,” depicting two clowns, led the sale and sold for $34,100 to a local collector from Bloomfield Hills bidding via telephone. Another Fredericks bronze sculpture titled “Anniversary Baboons” sold to another bidder – also bidding on the telephone – for $24,800. DuMouchelles said that was a record price for the subject by the artist. A local collector who has purchased works by Fredericks when DuMouchelles has offered them before bagged a 52-inch-long wall-mounted bronze relief plaque of seven geese in flight, for $14,880. “Nature in Motion (Flying Wild Geese)” had provenance to the Ohio Department of Transportation in Columbus, Ohio. The fourth bronze by Fredericks – his “American Eagle Ann Arbor War Memorial,” which depicted an eagle in flight, had the heftiest estimate ($40/60,000) and failed to find a new home.
A collection of 16 prints by Old Master artist Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471-1528) followed closely on the heels of the Fredericks’ bronzes. The collection, which included woodcuts, drypoint etchings and engravings, had been consigned by an elderly doctor who lives north of Flint, Mich. “There was lots of interest in the Dürers,” Walker said. A representative for the house later confirmed that interest came from all over the world, but that bidders in the United States prevailed and included both private collectors and trade buyers. Dürer’s engraving on laid paper titled “Hercules at the Crossroads” garnered $16,120 from an online bidder, followed by an engraving on paper of a coat of arms with a lion and a cockerel that finished at $8,060, selling to a buyer in New York who was bidding on the phone. All but two of the Dürers found buyers, with prices ranging on down to $2,356.
Interest in contemporary and modern sculpture was not limited to the Fredericks bronzes. An acrylic sculpture by Frederick Hart, (American 1843-1899), “Heroic Spirit,” sold from a Bloomfield, Mich., estate and fetched $15,240 from a buyer in Pennsylvania. The same Bloomfield estate consigned a bronze depicting polar bears by contemporary artist Sherry Salari Sander (American, b 1941); it sold to a benefactor of the Detroit Zoo, which has a popular Polar Bear exhibit, for $8,060.
The two-dimensional fine art in the sale saw strong results as well. A Peter Max (German, b 1937) mixed-media of a colorful “Umbrella Man” brought $4,650, more than four times its estimate, to a Florida collector, while a Currier & Ives color bird’s-eye view lithograph of the “City of Chicago,” circa 1892, sold for $3,500 – bettering its estimate by eight times. Walker said it sold to a buyer in Atlanta. British artist Robert Jobling’s “Dutch Girls on a Quay,” sold to a Michigan buyer bidding on the phone for $2,976; it had come from a Bloomfield Hills estate.
Unsigned and unattributed paintings provided some of the most contested action. An unattributed Hudson River School oil on panel measuring just 6 by 11 inches and titled “The Grave of Rodman Drake” depicted a vast landscape with cattle and the gravesite of poet Joseph Rodman Drake. It brought $2,800 against a $400 high estimate. Another unattributed painting of fairly standard portrait size (29 by 24 inches) depicting the young Charles I of England, Ireland and Scotland with blue sash medal soared past its high estimate of $600 in a fierce internet bidding war across three online platforms to settle at $3,800.
Bidding on works of decorative arts were sporadic, with strong prices across several categories. A 149-piece set of Gorham sterling silver flatware in the “King George” pattern sold to a buyer from California for $4,760, while a Birmingham sterling silver tea service and tray, made by Docker & Burn and engraved to pub owner Edward Holt in 1927, finished ahead of expectations, going to a local Detroit buyer bidding online for $2,108.
Interest in Victorian era items saw a brief resurgence when a Clarke’s Patent mirror backed sconce with six Burmese glass fairy lamps, in original condition, brought $1,900 against a high estimate of $1,500. A circa 1900 Japanese teakwood and mahogany etagere that Walker said “could be the focal point of any room” featured sterling silver mounts and inlays of hardstone and mother of pearl; it finished at $2,852.
Although Walker said that prices for furniture continue to be soft, with shipping costs tending to suppress prices, the category realized some good results on the first day of the sale. Brightly painted in pink, green and white, a chest of drawers by Mackenzie-Childs featured turtle-form feet brought $4,340 from a local Detroit buyer bidding on the phone and was the second highest price on the first day of the sale and well ahead of the estimate. A Michigan buyer bidding online won a heavily carved Gothic-style sideboard for $2,790, but a mid-Eighteenth Century Chippendale mahogany sideboard is going farther, having been won by a New York phone bidder for $2,356, nearly triple its high estimate.
The next auction with DuMouchelle Art Galleries is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, September 24-25.
Prices quoted include buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
DuMouchelle Art Galleries is at 409 East Jefferson Avenue. For information, 313-963-6255 or www.dumoart.com.
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