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Mid-Tier Artworks Produce Solid Results at Mid-Season Sales

Mid-season sales of photographs, American paintings and Impressionist art at Christie’s, as well as modern and contemporary art at Sotheby’s in February and March, commanded strong prices that point to a healthy demand in the middle market.

NEW YORK—Mid-season sales of photographs, American paintings and Impressionist art at Christie’s, as well as modern and contemporary art at Sotheby’s in February and March, commanded strong prices that point to a healthy demand in the middle market.

A March 3 sale of “Fine American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture” at Christie’s fetched $3.2 million and was 95 percent sold by dollar value. A total of 161, or 88 percent, of 184 lots found buyers.

The top lot was a circa 1865-66 oil, Early Autumn, attributed to the American School (19th- century), which soared far past its $7,000/9,000 estimate to sell for $307,200 to an American dealer. The painting came from the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and was sold to benefit the museum’s acquisitions fund.

The top lots produced several records, five of them set during the sale: An oil on canvasboard, Florida, by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), fetched more than three times the high estimate of $50,000 when it fell for $156,000; and the catalogue’s cover lot, Winter Sunset, circa 1900, by Walter Launt Palmer (1854-1932), realized $90,000 (estimate: $10,000/15,000), a record for a work on paper by the artist.

Says Allan Kollar, owner of A.J. Kollar Fine Paintings, Seattle: “There is a pretty strong audience for these 19th- and 20th-century works, and they have a much broader view of which items are worth living with. This era has been embraced by a constantly growing audience; people are aware of the tie between the aesthetics of the art and American history.”

Other top prices included $90,000 for a work by Thomas Moran (1827-1926), European Lake Scene, circa 1867 (estimate: $12,000/18,000). The picture came from the estate of Robert D.L. Gardiner and will be included in a forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Moran’s works. When last sold, at Christie’s East in October 1997, it brought $25,300 (estimate: $10,000/15,000).

Says Aviva Itzkowitz, who headed the sale at Christie’s: “We are delighted with the robust results from today’s sale, with excellent prices achieved across the board. We saw particular strength for Hudson River [School] paintings, many of which came from an important private collection in Minnesota.”

Nearly all the bestselling lots doubled, and often tripled, presale estimates. High Road Along a Stream, 1882, by Childe Hassam (1859-1935), offered from the Minnesota collection, took $72,000 (estimate: $20,000/30,000); and Autumn Glow, 1888, by Robert Vonnoh (1858-1933), went for $48,000 (estimate: $4,000/6,000).

Famous Names Boost Sotheby’s Sale

Sotheby’s arcade sale of modern and contemporary art, on Feb. 23, featured works by numerous art-world stars, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alexander Calder and Alex Katz, among others, and pulled in $2.7 million for more than 260 lots on offer.

The best price was $90,000, paid for a pair of paintings, Looking Past Seeing Through: Translation #29 and Spinning Off the Top: Translation #30, by Jess (Jess Collins), which carried an estimate of $6,000/8,000.

The second-highest price paid was $66,000, for Forest Scene (Undergrowth), by Léo Gausson (1860-1944), which had been estimated at just $7,000/10,000. A number of works by Calder (1898-1976) sold well, including his gouache-on-paper Logo Rhythms (estimate: $15,000/20,000), which realized $51,000.

Katz’s Portrait of a Woman doubled its $7,000/9,000 estimate to earn $19,200, while a 1984 Study for Marilyn in Bed (Red Stocking), by Tom Wesselmann (see story on page 7), jumped past its $7,000/9,000 estimate to fetch $39,000.

Christie’s Imp/Mod Art Sale

Christie’s Feb. 22 sale of Impressionist and modern art yielded $1.3 million and was 84 percent sold by dollar. Ninety-six, or 74 percent, of 129 lots on offer found buyers. Prices climbed no higher than five figures, though some works sold well above estimate.

The top lot was Homme-oiseau, 1956, by Jean (Hans) Arp (1887-1966), an oil that brought $72,000 (estimate: $20,000/30,000). The painting had been exhibited in a 1979 “Spirit of Surrealism” show at the Cleveland Museum of Art and was listed as property from the collection of the Mr. and Mrs. Frank H. Porter trust.

An oil on canvas, Marrakech, by Jean Dufy (1888-1964), went for $66,000 (estimate: $35,000/45,000); and an oil by Felix Vallotton (1865-1925), Femme à la draperie verte, 1911, brought $57,600 (estimate: $30,000/40,000).

Ansel Adams Print Leads at Christie’s

The Christie’s 387-lot photography sale on Feb. 15 realized $1 million; it was 73 percent sold by lot and 85 percent by dollar value. Ansel Adams’s gelatin silver print of Teton Range and the Snake River, 1942, printed in the 1970s, was sold for $38,400, bettering its $22,000/28,000 estimate.

William Eggleston’s dye-transfer print, Untitled, from Graceland, 1984 (estimate: $10,000/15,000), fetched $26,400; and Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Children at a Puppet Theatre, Paris, 1963 (printed later), earned $24,000 (estimate: $20,000/30,000).

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