NEW YORK—Mid-season sales of American art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, on March 6-7, realized a total of $7.4 million and were marked by healthy, competitive bidding. Sotheby’s sale on March 6 took $3.2 million for 192 lots offered, while Christie’s sale on March 7 brought $4.2 million for 216 lots on offer.
At Sotheby’s where 153, or 80 percent, of the lots were sold, the top price was $91,000 for Guy Carleton Wiggins’ oil-on-canvas Early Evening at the Plaza, 1961 (estimate: $40,000/60,000). It was followed by the turn-of-the-20th-century painting At the Ball, 1905, by Charles Hoffbauer (1875-1957), which fetched $85,000 (estimate: $30,000/50,000).
A New York dealer acquired William Zorach’s bronze sculpture Seated Nude for $67,000 (estimate: $30,000/50,000); and, not surprisingly, the sale as a whole was dominated by American collectors and dealers.
Commented Sotheby’s specialist Jennifer Roth: The sale, “which by nature is wholly dependent on U.S. buyers, exhibited strong competition from all parts of the country. The total was within striking range of our high estimate ($3.35 million), demonstrating that the American art market clearly has tremendous depth and buying power.”
Roth reports that modernist paintings sold “particularly well,” including Charles Green Shaw’s Plastic Polygon, an abstract 1936 painting that earned $58,000 (estimate: $25,000/35,000).
At Christie’s, Intense Bidding
At Christie’s where 166, or 77 percent, of the lots found buyers, specialist Ariana Hartsock credited “estimates set at very reasonable levels” as the source of intense bidding. Hartsock also noted “continuing robustness” in the American paintings market.
The top-selling lot was On the Terrace, an Impressionist-style oil painting by Karl Albert Buehr (1865-1952) that had been in a private collection in Pittsburgh since the early 1940s. The work flew past its $35,000 high estimate to win $409,000. Next came Tomato Patch, Florida, a painting by Ernest Lawson (1873-1939) that sold for $121,000 (estimate: $20,000/30,000).
As at Sotheby’s, a New York scene by Wiggins fetched a strong price: His 1911 depiction of Columbus Circle, sold from the estate of Leona Helmsley, took $109,000 (estimate: $20,000/30,000). The artist’s snow-covered scene of Trinity Church in downtown Manhattan, Old Trinity, fell for $49,000 (estimate: $30,000/50,000).
All the top lots brought prices well over estimate, among them Morris Graves’ Summer Flowers, 1976, which sold for $85,000 (estimate: $20,000/30,000); and George Tooker’s drawing Theesance—related to a 1956 painting by Tooker, Government Bureau, currently in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection. It sold for $73,000 (estimate: 15,000/25,000).