Published: November 14, 2006
Celebrating the first year in his stylish new location on the main drag of this charming and lively antiques and art oriented town, Colin Stair, of Stair Galleries, conducted what the auctioneer termed his “best auction ever.” The two-day sale, a first for the gallery, October 14 and 15, was attended by standing-room-only crowds throughout the weekend. Active bidding by the those in the gallery, the telephones and those bidding via the Internet routinely pushed prices well beyond estimates with the sale grossing an impressive $1.7 million.
“We used the same old recipe that has been working for us all along,” stated Stair. “The things we offer are estate fresh and they all have low reserves. That’s what sets us apart.”
Stair has been in the antiques business most of his life. “I worked for Sotheby’s until they downsized the operation in 2001,” he said. The auctioneer reported leaving the Manhattan auction house on May 31 that year and after recognizing what he felt was a void in the region for a broad-scaled auction operation, he was in business in Hudson on June 1. “I put my first sale together in four months and the rest is history. I love it, I love to have sales and see things through from start to finish.”
The auctioneer began selling out of a local church and eventually worked his way up to the current first-class location.
Stair and his dedicated staff moved into their new location just over a year ago and, according to the auctioneer, it has been a work in progress. “It didn’t look like this when we opened last year,” exclaimed the auctioneer as he surveyed the interior of the refurbished circa 1900 dry goods store. The building, now in its final stages, houses an elegant street-front window display flanking both sides of the entrance, and a smart looking showroom on the first floor.
“There are 500–600 people a day walking past this storefront and we go to great lengths to set up attractive windows so that people are enticed to come into the gallery. We get a lot of decorators coming through town and once they come inside, a lot of them leave a bid or two with us,” he said.
A grandiose Victorian stairway leads up to the second floor where another large preview area is located as well as an adjoining area where the auctions are conducted. Well lit, courtesy of the floor to ceiling expanse of windows that spans the room and provides a bird’s-eye view of the bustling shops on Warren Street, the gallery is ideal for both inspection and sales.
Stair segments its auctions and methodically runs from one category to another. The first session of this auction, Saturday, began with a selection of English furniture and ended several hundred lots later with a selection of British and European art. The Sunday session was predominately Americana, although there were items of “American interest” such as English silver and Chinese Export.
A large contingent of dealers was on hand for the sale and they bid actively, presumably doing some last minute shopping for the fall lineup of shows. Hudson, the antiques center of the Catskills, also harbors a large contingent of weekend and summer residents, many of whom actively collect, as well as a large contingent of year-round collectors. Also bidding with confidence was a large core of decorators.
The auction got off to a quick start on Saturday morning with a cut glass chandelier becoming the first lot to pop. Sold as lot three, the electrified 12-arm piece, estimated at $1,5/2,000, was bid to $8,625. A pair of brass English wall lights with cranberry shades followed and they easily shot past estimates bringing $3,335. Two pair of cut glass double-arm sconces also did well as they surpassed the $800–$1,200 estimates on their way to a selling price of $6,325.
The first piece of furniture offered for the day would continue to set the tone for the weekend as an English Queen Anne double-domed walnut secretary cabinet with a pair of mirrored doors above a slant lid desk rocketed past the $1,5/2,500 estimate as it was hammered down at $17,250.
Other furniture from the Saturday session included an Australian enamel-mounted ebonized table cabinet decorated with mythological figures that sold for $14,950, a Victorian mahogany triple-pedestal dining table brought $11,500, and a Regency rosewood gilt and metal mounted étagère was hammered down at $9,200.
An English Aesthetic Movement ebonized and gilt parcel cabinet did well selling at $6,900, while a pair of mahogany marquetry inlaid demilune console tables brought $8,450.
Other furniture sold in the two-day auction included a mahogany Chippendale chest-on-chest attributed to a Connecticut maker that shot past the $3/5,000 estimates as it sold to a buyer in the gallery for $19,550. Also handily exceeding estimates was a Federal inlaid curly maple game table, $2/3 ,000, that also went to a buyer in the gallery for $14,950. A final bid of $9,775 was executed for an inlaid Federal maple and mahogany settee with freestanding reeded vase-form arm supports and turned legs, an early pine sawbuck table thought to have been of New York origin realized $6,600, and a Federal mahogany sideboard with D-shaped top went out at $6,037.
Folk art items in the auction included a carved marble figure of George Washington that had been discovered in the garden of a New Jersey home. “When I asked about the carving,” said Stair, “the owner was shocked and asked ‘You want that?”‘ Not believing it to be of value, the consignor quickly let the rare piece go to auction after being assured by the auctioneer that it would bring a premium price. “A lot of these are European,” commented Stair, “but this one was definitely by an American sculptor.” Measuring just over 43 inches tall, the white marble figure depicted the general in a proud and stately pose. Bidding on this lot opened above the $2/4,000 presale estimates at $6,000 and a flurry of activity in the room and on the telephones resulted in the lot hammering down at $42,550.
The folk art lot that had captured the eye of serious collectors from around the country was a large cast iron figure of a dog thought to be by Baltimore maker Hayward Bartlette and Company. The large figure with relief molded fur and a thick collar retained a good deal of early painted surface with some of the paint thought to be original. At some point in the dog’s life, the tail had been broken and a portion of it had been replaced with a recast piece.
Estimated at $8/12,000, the offering of the lot caused those in the gallery to sit back and take note. As the auctioneer announced that the lot would open at $25,000, things got even quieter. Bids came slow at first and then the pace picked up with the lot eventually selling to a telephone bidder for $57,500.
Two cast iron Labrador retriever-form dogs were offered with a nice example with an old unpainted patinated finish selling at $4,312, while a similar dog, although painted as a Dalmatian, was knocked down at $6,325.
A good selection of silver was also offered in the auction with numerous sets of flatware selling during the first session. It was the second session, however, where the silver really did shine. The first lot to attract serious attention was a Maryland teapot by A. DuBois that possessed classic form. Possibly by Abraham DuBois, the teapot opened for bidding at $1,000 and was soon being hammered down at $7,475 to a buyer on the telephones.
A short while later a young gentleman hurried into the room and waited impatiently for 25-plus other lots of silver to be sold. As an Irish Queen Anne tankard, believed to have been made by Adam Billon, was offered, the gentleman in the room readied himself. Estimated at $2,5/3,500, the bidder in the gallery hit the lot immediately, only to be countered by another bidder in the room and several on the phones. Bids bounced methodically back and forth with the young gent claiming the lot at $60,375. With the same briskness that he entered the gallery, he departed. The auction gallery later confirmed that he was a silver dealer from Dublin who “was trying to catch a train.”
Paintings in the auction also did well with a Franklin Brooke Voss oil on canvas equestrian portrait titled “Wallflower” selling well above estimates at $14,950, while an English School equestrian scene of a steeple chase and a fox hunt realized $10,925.
A ship’s portrait, oil on artist board by Antonio Jacobsen titled “The Great Western” was actively bid with it selling at $9,200, an American School oil on canvas titled “American Bounty” brought $8,050, and a George III painted and parcel gilt trumeau depicting a harbor scene over three mirrored panels realized $7,475.
As noted in an article that appeared in the November 3 issue of Antiques and The Arts Weekly, the auction was marred by the discovery, after the auction had concluded, that some of the materials sold were reportedly stolen. The top lot of the Saturday session, a portrait by John Singleton Copley that sold at $97,750, consigned from the estate of William M.V. Kingsland, had been discovered missing from Harvard’s Fogg Museum since the late 1960s. Almost 250 of the lots had come from the Kingsland estate and the merchandise had been consigned by the City of New York “with clear title.” When it was discovered that some of the merchandise was reportedly stolen, Stair Galleries quickly made a decision to cancel the sale of every item sold with Kingsland provenance.
For further information on the auction, contact Stair Galleries, 549 Warren Street, Hudson NY 12534, 518-751-1000 or www.stairgalleries.com.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm