Published: May 3, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Soulis Auctions
LONE JACK, MO. – Dirk Soulis filled two days – April 23 and 24 – with a 228-lot offering of fine art and, on the second, a collection of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century American and European art glass, late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century American furniture and collector’s items as well as Greek and Egyptian objects from classical antiquity. The sale totaled $410,000 with a 93 percent sell-through rate. A total of 1,420 bidders were registered.
Top lot in the April 23 spring fine art sale was a large-format etching with aquatint on japon paper from 1980 titled “Vaincu Parce Que Plus Fort” (Defeated Because Stronger) by Belgian artist Pierre Alechinsky (b 1927), which sold for $18,400 to an in-house bidder. Signed by the artist lower left in red and titled below the image in grey graphite, it was edition 31 of 35 prints. Alechinsky, who is 94, has lived and worked in France since 1951. His work is related to tachisme, abstract expressionism and lyrical abstraction.
A layered acrylic on canvas by Suzanne Pipkin sold for $9,200 to a New York City collector bidding via the internet. “This is a local artist I discovered,” said Soulis. “She’s in her 80s now and produced this series in the late 1970s, 20 years before she attended the Kansas City Art Institute. She explained to me that these paintings were inspired by the sensation she experienced when she first saw a piece of Russian porcelain in a museum, a plate with elaborate decoration. She said it was as if the object began to spin and move. I was immediately reminded of the movie The Electric Life of Louis Wain. He was a British illustrator with a brilliant mind and very intense. He was fascinated with electricity as everyone was, but to the point, the movie demonstrated a very similar effect for him when he viewed certain things. This was consigned by her daughter. Suzanne remarked that the inspiration and the ability to paint these canvases left her, pretty much the same way the impetus had come to her.”
Fetching $8,400 from an Indiana bidder online was a pencil-signed Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) lithograph titled “Forward Pass.” Soulis said it is the highest price on record at auction, according to artnet.com, invaluable.com and liveauctioneers.com database results. Benton was of course a Kansas City native, and Soulis has handled a lot of his works. Soulis said this particular work came from a local collection of 35 lithographs printed under the supervision of and signed in pencil by the artist. Benton had said that the inspiration for it stemmed from an outing with a friend to see the Kansas City Chiefs play. He got permission to attend the team’s practice sessions where he could get a close-up view of football actions. “I made sketches there and from there a sculpture in bronze. The litho was made from the sculpture,” said Benton.
There was another Kansas City artist by the name of George Van Millet (1864-1953). A moody pastoral landscape by him with sheep and the red roof of a farmstead beyond was signed lower right front in black pigment. The work was displayed in a period frame, probably original, with a pattern of carved laurel and berries. The painting sold for $7,475 to a collector bidding absentee from Columbia, Mo.
Asian material highlights on the sale’s second day included two Eighteenth Century Chinese kesi silk tapestry technique rank badges, which went out at $7,900 to a Canadian online bidder. The badges featured a central egret surrounded by clouds and the eight Buddhist emblems for a civil official of the sixth rank. They measured 11 by 21¼ inches.
A mixed media work executed on chalkboard paper by Vernon Fisher (b 1943), “Old Mouse,” 1996, sold to a Maryland bidder online for $7,200. It came from the collection of Jan Weiner, according to Soulis, who opened her first gallery in Topeka, Kan., about one hour from Kansas City, and then moved her business to Kansas City where she represented dozens of artists until 2010 upon her passing. “In the early days, she would hang the one-man shows and artist exhibitions on the walls of her home,” said Soulis. “Her first show was in 1976 for an artist named Ron Slowinski. He was instructor of painting at the Kansas City Art Institute, and this auction saw a record price set for his work, a study in floating bits of color composed in oils on canvas sold for $3,080.”
Among other items of interest in the sale was the first appearance of sculpture by a well-regarded Asian-American female ceramicist named Mika Negishi Laidlaw. Her sculpture, a gravid composition in reddish earthenware with spontaneous mud-crack like glaze was scratch-signed by the artist on the base. “This work was simply signed Mika Negishi as it was created before she married,” said Soulis. “She attended Kansas State University in Manhattan Kansas to study with Yoshiro Ikeda and then later studied traditional Japanese pottery making in Japan. The untitled sculpture in this sale, first on record for the artist at auction when searching all major databases, sold to a New York City collector for $5,280. I think she is still an instructor of ceramics at a Minnesota University.”
And an oil on panel self-portrait by the famous Hollywood costume designer Walter Plunkett (1902-1982) depicted a detailed, though convex, likeness of the artist reflected in a silver teapot and dated 1958. It sold for $5,750. Soulis said that, according to askart.com, only Plunkett’s watercolor and gouache renderings of costume designs for Gone with the Wind have sold for higher prices.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. The next auction is slated for June 19.
For additional information, www.dirksoulisauctions.com or 816-697-3830.
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