Published: December 12, 2006
Sollo Rago Modern Auctions continued a record climb on October 21 and 22, grossing $6 million and setting world records for the sale of the designers Wharton Esherick, Gertrude and Otto Natzler and Phil Powell.
Sales exceeded expectations across categories, doubling Sollo Rago’s results of last fall and demonstrating the vitality of the auction and the market.
The much-heralded Wharton Esherick collection featured in the first session on Saturday was extraordinary by all accounts. Its crown jewel, a hand carved screen from 1927, fetched the highest selling price for any work by Esherick and for the sale overall, selling for $312,000. “In my years of working with midcentury objects, it is undoubtedly the absolute best piece I have ever seen,” said John Sollo.
Phillip Lloyd Powell watched proudly from the crowd as his sculpted walnut wall-hanging cabinet sold for $60,000, a record-price for his work. Powell, a Buck County designer, was featured in Sollo’s lecture at the Gramercy Park Modernism Show in mid-October. A studio furnituremaker, long-time New Hope resident and friend of both George Nakashima and Esherick, Powell’s works are increasingly in demand by collectors.
“I absolutely believe this sale featured the finest selection of studio furniture ever to come to auction,” said Sollo. “It was truly a privilege to bring it to market.” Clearly the buying public agreed. Other highlights in this segment — a George Nakashima burl wood coffee table for $180,000, a Vladimir Kagan floating sofa for $18,000 and a Paul Evans steel-front cabinet for $51,000.
David Rago, Sollo’s partner and the auction’s expert on pottery and ceramics, was on the podium when a Natzler vase covered in a spectacular blue crystalline glaze took center stage, selling for a record $252,000. “I’ve been trying to get this piece into an auction for years. It doesn’t get any better,” noted Rago. Other highlights in the sale of Modern ceramics included a Pablo Picasso/Madoura ceramic charger for $14,400, a Lucie Rie porcelain bowl for $10,200 and Robert Turner ceramic vessel for $6,600.
Meredith Hilferty, who directs the evening sale of modern and contemporary art, had a great deal to celebrate, as well. A stellar selection of sculpture and monoprints by Harry Bertoia grossed more than $300,000, led by the sale of a 53-inch willow for $54,000 and a spray for $66,000. Another highlight was the sale of “Roy Lichtenstein Tex 1972” by Richard Pettibone, earning well over its high estimate at $90,000. “The sale of modern and contemporary art is the next big thing for our auction house,” said Hilferty. Bearing this out was the sale of Roy Lichtenstein’s “Brushstroke” for $12,000, Joseph Stella’s untitled floral still life for $19,200 and Ibram Lassaw’s untitled brass sculpture for $10,200.
Also selling above high estimate: a bibliotheque by Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouve for $84,000, a Wendell Castle room installation for $39,000, a pair of Hagenauer polished bronze double candelabras for $10,200, a Manzanita burl bud vase by Melvin Lindquist for $4,200 and an optical and lead glass crystal sculpture by Jon Kuhn for $11,400.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
Sollo, Rago and Hilferty are currently accepting consignments for the April Sollo Rago Modern Auction and all other sales. For information, www.ragoarts.com or 609-397-9374.
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