Published: April 29, 2003
GREENWICH CONN. — “Spring is springing, the war is over, things are looking good,” said an optimistic Gene Shannon prior to his Fine American and European Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture auction on Thursday afternoon, April 24.
Come sale time, Shannon’s optimism proved infectious spilling over into the auction room. As the first painting headed for the podium, several of the runners were extremely busy, not getting the paintings ready for the block, but setting up additional seating to accommodate an enthusiastic crowd estimated to be in excess of 300.
The auction, consisting of 230 lots, grossed an impressive $2.2 million and saw at least ten record prices at auction established for individual artists.
While the gallery had expressed some apprehension prior to the auction regarding the sale of its anticipated top lot, the Karel Appel modern abstraction portrait, all was for naught as it came off without a hitch. The piece, entitled “I Mannetje,” measured 311/2 by 173/4 inches and was one of the earliest known works from Appel’s “Personages” group of paintings, a style referred to by the gallery as “astonishingly brutal and childlike in their expressionism.” The “Personages” group of paintings established Appel’s reputation and led many to compare his work to Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.
Shannon referred to the Appel as a “seminal work from the early 50s by one of the CoBrA Groups founding members” and commented that the painting was “extremely important historically.” Estimated at $100/150,000, the painting opened for bidding at $55,000 and moved steadily between the room and a telephone bidder with the lot eventually selling to a European buyer on the phone for $106,825, including premium.
Shannon commented that the sale overall was “better than any other sale we have had to date. Middle market paintings, say from $5,000 to $50,000, were extremely strong.” Paintings in that bracket included a small Levi Prentice unframed oil depicting a basket of cherries that sold well above estimates at $22,325, while the attractive impressionistic cover lot, a Frank Townsend Hutchens oil on canvas entitled “Youth” and depicting a young girl with a basket of flowers, doubled estimates at $70,500, shattering Hutchens’ previous record auction price of $11,000.
A complete review will appear in a future issue.
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