Published: July 14, 2020
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Helmuth Stone Gallery
SARASOTA, FLA. – As the Fourth of July weekend wound to a close, Helmuth Stone Gallery offered more than 450 lots of fine art, antiques and jewelry. Marquee collections included more than 30 glass and carved stone snuff bottles from California collector, David Chang, whose collection Helmuth Stone is selling in several sales. Several Americana illustrations from the James A. Helzer collection gave a nod to the patriotic holiday weekend. With a few after-sale transactions finalized after the final gavel fell on July 5, the sale was about 77 percent sold by lot and achieved a total of $215,000. A few people were bidding in the room but for the most part, bidding action took place off stage, either to buyers on the phone or online.
“This sale surpassed our expectations so we were very happy,” Brandon Stone told us a few days after the sale closed, explaining that he and his partner, Austin Helmuth, have seen steadily growing sale totals in recent months and that this auction saw the largest online turnout the firm has ever had.
It would be a mistake to consider Helmuth Stone Gallery a small regional auction house. Both Stone and Helmuth travel extensively to source property and their sales are conducted on six internet platforms: Invaluable, LiveAuctioneers and Bidsquare in the United States, The Saleroom in the United Kingdom and Chinese platforms EPaiLive and 51BidLive. The majority of items sell outside of the Sarasota area, either within the greater United States or to international buyers around the world.
As if to underscore the global reach of the house, several of the top prices realized in the sale were from international bidders. That was the case with the top lot in the sale, a fourth state drypoint etching by Rembrandt van Rijn that came from a private collector in Naples, Fla., but which sold to a Rembrandt collector bidding on the phone from overseas, for $22,385. Competition came from the phones as well as from online bidders for the circa 1650 etching, which was unsigned and undated but came with a certificate of authenticity and was listed in The Nowell-Usticke Collection of Rembrandt Etchings where it was described as extra rare.
The sale featured two works by Venezuelan op and kinetic artist, sculptor and painter Jesús Rafael Soto (1923-2005); both works were from a private European collection. “Most of the international interest in the Sotos was from South America, but we had interest from Miami as well as New York City. The first of the two offered sold to a trade buyer in Chile for $5,143, while the other brought $5,445 from an Op Art collector who splits time between Florida and New York City.
“One thing I’m noticing is that Chinese bidders are becoming more interested in Americana,” Stone said. He was speaking in reference to “Flag over Capitol with Abraham Lincoln” by Shannon Stirnweis (American, b 1931), which he said was bid on exclusively by international bidders using the Chinese online platforms. It made $2,057 against an estimate of $500-$1,000 and was from the Helzer illustration collection. The work accompanied numerous other patriotic and Americana themed works by such Twentieth Century artists as David K. Stone, John Swatsley, Dennis Lyall, Tom Lydon and Jim Butcher.
Chinese buyers continue to snap up Chinese works of art and snuff bottles from the collection of David Chang. Of the 35 snuff bottles offered, about 75 percent found buyers, at prices ranging from $121 to $1,210. A Chinese Wucai Dragon & Phoenix porcelain bowl with Qianlong mark realized $2,662, and a pair of scrolls by Ru Pu (China, 1896-1963) brought $2,541.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
Helmuth Stone’s next sale will take place on August 23 and will feature more of the David Chang and James Helzer collections, as well as American paintings from a New England collection, Americana and nautical items, in addition to the usual variety of Asian antiques and jewelry.
Helmuth Stone is at 1467 Main Street. For information, www.helmuthstone.com or 941-260-9703.
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