Published: October 27, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy South Bay Auctions
EAST MORICHES, N.Y. – It had been a long time since South Bay Auctions had thrown an onsite sale, but when the firm’s co-owner Jean-Paul Napoli walked through the large horse-stable-turned-artist-collective less than a mile from his gallery, he knew the 575 lots had to be seen and sold in situ on October 17. The property that once housed the Full Moon Arts Center was sold and needed to be vacated by the end of October, leaving the consignor with a large collection of art and furniture that had no room in their plans for downsizing.
“I didn’t see it coming,” Napoli said. “This wasn’t something we had been talking about. We made the decision in a week and had three weeks to pull it together. It was a short timeline, but it was exciting.”
The auction that commenced received much attention.
Napoli said some of the items were created on the premises by artists who took part in the center’s programming, others were amassed by the consignor over a decades-long career in collecting.
“There was a vein of good taste through everything,” Napoli said. “It didn’t matter if it was modern, folk art or classical – a lot of it was so fun.”
The sale’s top five lots could not have been any more different from each other. Going to a collector from the western United States was a Steinway model M baby grand piano in an ebony finish from 1983, which sold for $15,000. Behind was an Alice in Wonderland storybook automaton by Baranger Studios that took an above estimate price of $9,600. Baranger Studios created advertising displays for store windows from 1937 to 1959, setting retailers up on a schedule where a new display would arrive each month and the old display would be sent back to the company. Selling for $8,160 was the first piece of fine art, American artist Hunt Slonem’s (b 1951) “Messenger,” a monumental 1981 oil on canvas, 83¼ by 117¼ inches, that the consignor had purchased at South Bay Auctions about 15 years ago. A large Oriental rug came next, measuring 15 feet 6 inches by 14 feet 2 inches and was laid down at $7,440. Rounding out the top earners was a 10-inch-wide shell-form dish by Gorham in mixed metals with a crab on one side that brought $3,840 after 43 bids.
The rest of the sale explored works by both listed and unlisted artists, modern and country furniture, vintage posters, trade signs, classical garden furniture and more.
Furniture was led by a $2,760 result for a 101-inch-long pine country farm table with two drawers that fielded 21 bids. Purchased directly from the artist in the 1980s was a “Sternum” rocking chair by American craft furniture maker David Ebner (b 1945) with a cane seat. Ebner’s works can now be found at the foremost design shows, represented by Philadelphia-based Moderne Gallery. A pair of rattan club chairs with mirrored armrests about tripled the high estimate to sell for $2,280.
Outsider art was found in the works of Purvis Young (1943-2010), whose “People Move Around the City,” a 14¾-by-26¾-inch acrylic on plywood work with provenance to Galerie BelAge, sold for $2,160. An artist auction record was set for Josh Brodar (b 1971) with a high at $1,320 and his low at $180, plus three unsold. Brodar became known within the Outsider art community for his tradition of selling his work off the back of a truck on the streets outside the Outsider Art Fair each year.
There were eight carved fish trade signs in the sale, led by a catfish example in carved and painted wood with sheet metal fins, 44 inches long, that brought $1,560. Another, this one featuring a carved and painted trout, sold for $780.
Bidders got two-for-one with a painted wood sign with gilt lettering for Blackledge Vocal Studios, which had been painted over an earlier sign for a furrier, the black background fading over time to reveal the earlier lettering. That brought $960.
A kinetic handshake sculpture featuring a carved wood arm extending from a black box, a functioning motor thrusting it forward to shake hands, sold for $1,080 on a $250 estimate. The piece had a plaque on it that read “F.E. Stalcup Ministry Training Aid.”
It took Napoli nine hours to get through the entire sale with the internet bidding holding up the pace, though the auctioneer said it allowed folks from all parts of the country to participate.
“Bidding came from all over,” Napoli said. “We had about 600 people following the sale online. And in person, there were a lot of Long Island and New York bidders that came in and found something that they had to have.”
All prices reported include buyer’s premium. For information, www.southbayauctions.com or 631-878-2909.
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