NEW YORK—At the Grand Prix, ca. 1887, a painting by Childe Hassam of a parade through Paris, was one of the highlights of Skinner’s May 21 sale of American and European art, fetching $699,000 and far outpacing the auction house’s $150,000/200,000 estimate. The other was Yves Tanguy’s oil A Little Later, 1940, which brought $688,000, also well above the $300,000/500,000 estimate. Both works were from estates.
The sale brought in an overall total of nearly $4million, well above the $1.8million/2.7million estimate, and the second-highest-grossing total in Skinner’s history. (Its highest-grossing auction, in 2004, was propelled by the sale of Manchester Harbor, 1853, a rediscovered oil by Fitz Henry Lane, for $5.5million.) In all, 474, or 83 percent, of the 571 lots found buyers.
“We definitely feel the market is shoring up, and we’ve seen that in all of our departments,” Skinner galleries managing director Marie Keep told ARTnewsletter. In addition to a stronger market, she also credited the strong total to the way Skinner has increased both the quality of material offered and the number of buyers.
The sale was filled with highlights, and not just for the lots that came in with high estimates. Irving Wiles’s A Walk Along the Harbor Shore, late 19th century, for example, bore an estimate of $50,000/75,000 and sold for $490,000, while two watercolors on board by British artist William Alexander, Chinese Barges of the Embassy and A View of Part of the Great Wall of China, both 1793 and each estimated at $1,000/1,500, fetched $82,950 and $100,725, respectively. Alexander traveled with the first British embassy to China in 1792, creating watercolor images of what he and the others in the party witnessed, and these paintings were the basis for engravings that illustrated the two-volume An Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China, published in 1797. “Many collectors and dealers came in to see these paintings in person,” said Kathy Wong, of Skinner’s department of paintings and prints.
Fresh Sky, 1911, an oil by George Bellows, sold for $77,025 on a $40,000/60,000 estimate. Himene at Fara. Tahiti, 1891, a watercolor by John LaFarge, brought $53,325 on a $25,000/35,000 estimate, and a 1916 portrait by John Singer Sargent fetched $59,250 on a $50,000/70,000 estimate. A pair of floral still lifes by British painter Cecil Kennedy that Skinner experts had estimated for $700/900 sold for 30 times that, taking $27,255.
Old Master works also sold well, such as two 16th-century Flemish School oils on panel by an unknown artist—Madonna and Child (estimate: $3,000/4,000) and Holy Family with St. John the Baptist and St. Elizabeth (estimate: $4,000/6,000)—which sold for $38,513 and $20,145, respectively. Two 18th-century paintings attributed to the school of Francesco Guardi—View of the Grand Canal and Ponte di Rialto and the Grand Canal, each estimated at $2,000/3,000—brought in $16,590 and $21,330, respectively. Landscape with Dunes and Figures, attributed to a follower of 17th-century Dutch artist Jacob van Ruisdael, took $65,175 on a $5,000/7,000 estimate.
The sale was divided into two parts, starting with prints, which sold well. Of the 193 lots in the prints section, 173, or 89 percent, were sold. Of the 378 lots of paintings and sculpture in the second session, 301, or 81 percent, found buyers.
Among the top-selling prints was L’Antitête, 1949, a three-volume book of writings by Tristan Tzara, illustrated by Max Ernst, Joan Miró and Tanguy, which sold for $53,325 (estimate: $40,000/60,000). La Theógonie d’Hésiode, 1955, a suite of 20 etchings by Georges Braque, earned $33,180 on an estimate of $7,000/9,000, and poet Frank O’Hara’s book Stones, 1959, illustrated with lithographs by Larry Rivers, brought $26,070 on an estimate of $15,000/20,000. And a 1976 edition of Samuel Beckett’s Foirades/Fizzles with a series of 33 etchings by Jasper Johns took in $20,145 on an estimate of $12,000/18,000.