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Western Art Wins $20M at Strong Christie’s Auctions

Christie’s offered 218 lots and sold 166, or 76 percent, at its auction of American art on Nov. 29.

NEW YORK—Christie’s offered 218 lots and sold 166, or 76 percent, at its auction of American art on Nov. 29. The highest price for a guaranteed lot was the $4.4 million paid by a U.S. dealer for Frederic Remington’s The Signal (If Skulls Could Speak), 1900, albeit just clearing the low estimate of $4 million with premium taken into account. Herring Fishing,1894, a watercolor by Winslow Homer, brought the second-highest price among the guaranteed lots—$3.1 million, against an estimated $2.5/3.5 million.

Among works sans guarantees, the top lot was Andrew Wyeth’s The Intruder, a sparse, dark 1971 tempera on panel depicting a dog perched on rocks overlooking a river, which fetched $5.8 million (estimate: $3/5 million). Childe Hassam’s circa 1905 Sunset at Sea, sold by the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University to benefit its acquisition fund, won $3.7 million (estimate: $2/3 million) from a U.S. dealer; and another work by Remington, the 1901 bronze The Cheyenne, made $3.17 million (estimate: $3/5 million).

Christie’s reports that Western art accounted for $20 million of the auction total. Along with the Remington works, a top seller was The Check—Keep Your Distance, 1852, an Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait oil of a cowboy on horseback, aiming a gun at several Native Americans in the distance; it sold for $2.8 million, more than double the $1.2 million high estimate.

Gaspard Painting Brings Overestimate $2M

The highest price of the Lawrence collection, by far, was the $2 million (estimate: $800,000/1.2 million) given for The Finish of the Kermesse, 1918, a colorful depiction of peasants in a Russian village by Leon Shulman Gaspard (1882-1964).

This was followed by $481,000 each for A Stroll in the Park, circa 1915-18, by William James Glackens (estimate: $300,000/500,000); and for Sun Glow, 1913, George Wesley Bellows’ oil of rocks and water on the coast of Maine that was estimated at $300,000/500,000. (The Lawrences had acquired the Glackens for $115,000 at Christie’s New York in September 1992.)

The buy-in rate for the Lawrence collection essentially mirrored the overall sale: Of 40 works on offer, 10, or 25 percent, failed to sell. Most of the unsold lots carried high, six-figure estimates, including Everett Shinn’s 1949 oil Vaudeville (estimate: $500,000/700,000).

What makes Christie’s results especially impressive is that three major lots, from the collection of the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College, Lynchburg, Va., were withdrawn from the sale earlier in November, owing to ongoing legal disputes about whether the school should sell the works to shore up its endowment (see story, p. 3).

A Christie’s spokesman told ARTnewsletter, “We are disappointed by the court’s decision. We hope to have the opportunity to offer these exceptional paintings for sale at a later date, in support of Randolph College’s efforts to ensure its future.”

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