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Conservative Estimates Spark Competition at American-Art Sales

Midseason sales of American art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s on March 4–5 yielded solid results.

NEW YORK—Midseason sales of American art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s on March 4–5 yielded solid results. Sotheby’s offered 195 lots on March 4, selling 124, or 64 percent, and taking in a total of $2 million. By value, the auction was 71 percent sold. Christie’s auction the following day took in $1.7 million for 185 lots, of which 117, or 63 percent, were sold. By value, the auction was 72 percent sold.

Among the top lots at Sotheby’s was The Big Fight, a boxing scene by Dunbar Dyson Beck (1902–86), that sold for $68,500 against a $30,000/50,000 estimate. A 1938 Surrealist-style painting by James Guy (1909–83), Capital Minus Labor, which was exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1940, soared past its modest $5,000/7,000 estimate to sell for $68,500 to a U.S. collector. Birger Sandzen’s painting Moonlight, circa 1917–19, brought $62,500 against an estimate of $30,000/50,000.

Four of the auction’s top lots were sold to dealers: John Singer Sargent’s pencil-and-charcoal drawing Study for Madame Gautreau Drinking a Toast doubled the $20,000/30,000 estimate to sell for $59,375; Irving Ramsay Wiles’s oil Reading in the Garden was sold for $56,250 on an estimate of $20,000/30,000; Karl Albert Buehr’s painting The Parasol, circa 1913, brought in $53,125 against an estimate of $30,000/40,000; and Stephen Scott Young’s Study for Costume Sunday, 1992, brought in $46,875, far surpassing the estimate of $25,000/35,000.

At Christie’s, the top lot was Frederick Carl Frieseke’s painting Child Knitting, 1922, which sold for $74,500 to an American dealer (estimate: 40,000/60,000). That was followed by Leon Shulman Gaspard’s Mongolian Woman, 1922, which sold for $56,250 (estimate: $30,000/50,000). Thomas Hill’s landscape Royal Arches and Domes of Yosemite, 1879, also brought $56,250, against an estimate of $25,000/35,000. An untitled abstract painting, circa 1941, by Frederick Kann soared above its $8,000/12,000 estimate to set a record price for the artist of $18,750.

Ariana Hartsock, the head of the sale, said that “keeping estimates conservative has encouraged active participation from buyers, and in several cases, has generated sale prices that well exceeded our estimates.”

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