NEW YORK—On Dec. 11, Los Angeles Modern Auctions had one of its most successful auctions to date, realizing $2.9 million for a sale of modern art and design. Leading the auction was an untitled, 1962 mixed-media relief on panel by John Chamberlain that sold for $275,000, exceeding its $150,000/200,000 estimate. Setting an auction record was a 1944 Isamu Noguchi wooden chess table, one of only 12 that the sculptor created in his lifetime, which earned $187,500 on a $30,000/40,000 estimate. A 2004 Dale Chihuly chandelier, comprised of blown glass, opal and garnet, sold for $84,375, ahead of its $40,000/60,000 estimate.
Other strong sales were recorded for: Andy Warhol’s screen print, Shoes, 1980, which sold for $81,250, compared with an estimate of $70,000/90,000; Robert Rauschenberg’s lithograph Sling Shots Lit # 6, 1985, which sold for $68,750, compared with an estimate of $30,000/50,000; Manuel Neri’s painted bronze Female Nude Fragment, 1990, which sold for $50,000, compared with an estimate of $40,000/60,000; and an untitled oil, 1959, by Raymond Parker, which sold for $47,500 on an estimate of $20,000/30,000. In all, 366 (or 74 percent) of the 505 lots found buyers.
At the sale of American and European art held at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago on Dec. 11, the top lot was $146,400 paid for Ernest Hennings’s undated oil painting Carving the Gourd. The auction house had high hopes for this painting, as it had the highest estimate ($80,000/120,000) of any lot in the sale, but the artwork exceeded even that. Overall, the sale earned $1.5 million, edging within the presale estimate of $1.4 million/2.2 million, with 261 (or 69 percent) of the 381 lots finding buyers.
Among the other top lots in the auction were: A.G. Rizzoli’s ink on paper, Janet M. Peck Painted Pictorially, 1937, which realized $109,800, far higher than the estimate of $15,000/25,000; Jean Dufy’s undated oil Place de la Concorde, which sold for $48,000, on an estimate of $25,000/35,000; Edouard Leon Cortes’ undated Boulevard Saint-Martin, which sold for $43,920, compared with an estimate of $25,000/35,000 and his undated Normandie, which sold for $31,720, compare with an estimate of $15,000/25,000; Lynn Chadwick’s bronze sculpture Recumbent Elektra, No. 576, 1968, which sold for $41,480, on an estimate of $30,000/50,000; and Larry Poons’s mixed-media on canvas Regulus, 1985, which sold for $39,040, on an estimate of $10,000/15,000.
Despite these stronger-than-expected prices, there was a large number of buy-ins, many of them lots with higher estimates, such as an undated and untitled acrylic on canvas by Paul Jenkins that was estimated at $30,000/50,000.
The following day, Leslie Hindman held a sale of old and new graphic and photographic prints, earning $455,040, just under the presale estimate of $492,000/750,000, with 190, or 79 percent, of the 241 lots finding buyers. Among the top lots in this auction were Sol Lewitt’s monoprint Wavy Brush Strokes No. 13, 1998, which sold for $46,360, on an estimate of $3,000/5,000; Roy Lichtenstein’s lithograph Blue Floor, 1990, which sold for $28,060, compared with an estimate of $15,000/25,000; and Man Ray’s undated lithograph A l’Heure de l’Observatoire—Les Amoureux, which sold for $21,960, compared with an estimate of $20,000/30,000.
Also notable in these two sales was the inclusion of 87 folk art paintings and 43 prints that had belonged to Ralph Esmerian, the former jewelry dealer and one-time chairperson of the American Folk Art Museum who was sentenced this past July to six years in federal prison and ordered to pay $20 million for embezzlement and wire fraud. A total of 103 works (66 paintings and 37 prints) found buyers and the remainder will be held for later sales.