NEW YORK—A 1960 Karel Appel oil painting, Presque Une Joie, was the top lot at Skinner’s two-part sale of American and European art on May 18, realizing $118,500 on an estimate of $80,000/100,000. There were other strong prices, such as the $82,950 paid for Julian Onderdonk’s undated Blue Bonnets and Cactus, compared with an estimate of $20,000/30,000; the $59,250 realized for Paul Klee’s 1928 etching Höhe!, against an estimate of $50,000/70,000; and $46,288 paid for Norman Rockwell’s 1930s preparatory oil The Gossips (Vignette I), on an estimate of $30,000/50,000.
On the whole, however, bidding was rarely competitive, and many of the buyers appeared to be testing where the reserve price might be. For instance, George Kolbe’s bronze sculpture Skizze zu Wolkenfahrt, 1925, brought $23,700, missing the estimate of $40,000/50,000, while an Antonio Bueno oil, Portrait of Blonde Woman in Profile, sold for $5,629, also missing the estimate of $10,000/15,000.
Several of the lots with higher estimates failed to sell, including Jasper Francis Cropsey’s 1847 oil The Old Mill, which had been estimated at $40,000/60,000, and Sam Gilliam’s 1993 acrylic and pastel on canvas titled Iceland I, which was expected to bring $20,000/30,000.
However, there was more interest in Lyonel Feininger’s ink on paper Sailing Vessels and Rainbow, 1934, which realized $20,145, compared with an estimate of $10,000/15,000 and Hubert Dalwood’s cast aluminum sculpture Lucca, 1958, which sold for $15,925, compared with an estimate of $4,000/6,000.
Overall, the sale earned $1.3 million, falling below the presale estimate of $1.4 million/2 million, with 396, or 76 percent, of the 522 lots in the sale finding buyers.
Some Strong Prices at Heritage Dallas Auction
Heritage Auctions’ May 22 sale of modern and contemporary art in Dallas, strong prices were reached for works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Larry Poons, Donald Judd, Dale Chihuly and Vik Muniz.
However, the top lot was a bronze sculpture by Swedish artist Carl Milles titled Hand of God, which sold for $170,500, far outpacing the $15,000/20,000 estimate.
Frank Hettig, Heritage’s director of modern and contemporary art sales, said he was “astonished” at the price, “especially since the other work by [Milles] in the sale only went for $15,000.” (The 1949 bronze titled Pegasus was also estimated at $15,000/20,000.) “There was a lot of bidding, with people from Europe and people from America, but ultimately it was bought by an American,” Hettig said of Hand of God.
Most of the sale followed a more expected pattern, with top prices paid for Warhol’s color screenprint Superman, 1981, which fetched $146,500, compared with an estimate of $80,000/120,000, and his color screenprint Marilyn, 1967, selling for $80,500, against an estimate of $50,000/70,000.
And two separate versions of Warhol’s color screenprint Moonwalk, 1987, both sold for $71,500, although one was estimated at $40,000/60,000 and the other at $60,000/80,000.
Picasso’s linoleum cut Dejeuner sur l’herbe, 1962 , sold for $134,500, on an estimate of $80,000/100,000, while an untitled 1997 acrylic by Mary Corse realized $59,375, on an estimate of $15,000/20,000. And Modigliani’s watercolor titled Seated Female Nude, 1916, sold for $50,000, on an estimate of $80,000/100,000.
Hettig also noted that the price for the Corse acrylic came as a surprise, since few of her works had appeared on the secondary market. A member of the “Light and Space” group of California artists in the late 1960s, she gained considerable attention in the “Pacific Standard Time” series of exhibitions at California museums that took place starting last fall and continuing through the end of May. She had first-time exhibitions last November at London’s White Cube gallery and this past February at New York’s Lehmann Maupin.
Overall, 111, or 65 percent, of the 170 lots found buyers to earn a total of $1.7 million, just missing the $1.8 million/2.5 million presale estimate. Among the higher-priced lots that failed to sell were Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1986 oil In Color, which was estimated at $120,000/200,000, and had been bought in at a previous modern and contemporary sale at Heritage.