Saturday, October 31, 2009

That Rotten Shark Is Starting To Really Smell. A Perfect Halloween Art Story

It couldn't get worse for Damien Hirst
After a career built on conceptual art, Damien Hirst turned to paint and canvas - and the boos from the critics were unanimous. Mark Hudson fears he had it coming.

Mark Hudson of the Telegraph.UK: "This week we may have witnessed one of the pivotal moments in the history of art. Not only has Damien Hirst, arguably the richest and most powerful artist in history, received the critical pasting of his life, but there's a sense that our whole perception of what art is, or should be, may have subtly – or not so subtly – shifted.

In case you've been miles from the media over the past week, Hirst, the man who became famous by putting sharks and sheep in formaldehyde, who summed up the 21st century confluence of art and shameless materialism with a £50 million diamond-encrusted skull – none of which he actually made himself – decided to exhibit paintings executed with his own hand in one of Britain's most august art institutions, the Wallace Collection." Full link here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Halloween Chair. Perfect For The Front Porch Saturday Night

ACNews:Written by Terry Kovel
Monday, 26 October 2009 07:11
A rocking chair shaped like a skeleton is bound to be noticed, especially around Halloween. This 20th-century example brought $3,198 at Jackson's Auctioneers in Cedar Falls, Iowa, this past June.
Skeletons are invited guests at our celebration of Halloween, the Mexican holiday called "Day of the Dead" and a few other ghoulish events. A chair shaped like a skeleton, with boney arms, ribs, feet and skull, is one of the largest skeleton pieces a collector can find, and it's a mystifying piece of antique furniture. The late Vincent Price, a well-known actor in horror films, owned a whole set of skeleton chairs. At least four variations of the large, scary chairs have been sold in recent years. A few were painted white, one was dark mahogany and one was a rocking chair. The most famous is a Russian chair that has an inscription that solved part of the mystery of why these chairs were made. The inscription indicated the chair was a gift from "Masonic Lodge, 1838," so at least one of the chairs related to a Masonic ritual. That chair sold in London in 1980 for $36,300, sold again in 1992 for about half that, then sold in 2009 for $3,198 at Jackson's Auctions in Cedar Falls, Iowa. A popular modern "skeleton chair" is an aluminum chair by Michael Aram. It has a ribcage back, no arms or skull, a pelvis seat and three legs that look like bones. Price: $450. If you want your own skeleton chair to frighten guests on Halloween, you can buy an inexpensive chair slipcover that's printed with a skeleton to cover the back, arms, seat and legs with appropriate bones

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It Wasn't Just Dinosaurs That Created This Collection

Southebys:"The collection formed by Lord and Lady Attenborough focuses primarily on British art from the outbreak of the First World War to the 1960s, and features superb works by many of the best known artists of the period, including Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, C.R.W.Nevinson and L.S.Lowry. Collected over six decades, there is a continuous sense of a narrative quality running through all the works, and the remarkable paintings and prints in the collection give us a clear indication of the unerring eye of a master storyteller at work." The auction takes place November 11th, 2009 at Southebys in London.

To read Lord Attenborough's thoughts on his collection in The Times, click here.

Video from Southeby's of the collection here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Results For A Modern Auction

Rago's Auction House in New Jersey is having a very nice auction of moderne pieces on the weekend of October 24/25. This collection of 20th century pieces are not usually the finds I seek out, but then unfortunately I can remember when this was the height of chic and then for many, lost favor.

A very astute friend reminded me recently that for much of the population today, this is all new to their eyes. For those of us born just a bit before 1980...,we can now look back and see that good design did exist in those days, when a few smokey clouds might have blurred our vision. Its a huge catalogue which you can view here.

Some of my picks are kitschy and fun and bring back memories of "what were you thinking," but others really are fine and yes finally classic. Lets take a look.

GILBERT ROHDE / HERMAN MILLER Paldao four-door cabinet with large etched brass pulls, single shelf and interior shallow drawers. Stenciled 4104 on back. 33" x 66" x 16"
Estimate: $1,500 - $3,500
Sale Price: $1,830. A very nice buy.

LOUIS W. RICE / BERNARD RICE"S SONS Silver-plated Skyscraper candlestick with copper handle, ca. 1928. Stamped Skyscraper Des. Pat. Pending Apollo EPNS Made by Bernard Rice"s Sons Inc. 5270. 8 1/2" x 3 3/4" x 2 3/4"
Estimate: $1,500 - $3,500
Sale Price: $6,100. I liked it but that is one expensive candlestick.

ANDY WARHOL The Souper Dress, screenprint in colors on cotton, ca. 1965. (Literature: Mark Francis, "The Warhol Look: Glamour, Style, Fashion," New York, 1997, for illustration of another example.) Titled on original label at collar, with care instructions. 38" long"
Estimate: $1,500 - $2,500
Sale Price: $3,172. Iconic.

STARK CARPET COMPANY (New York) Room-size rug with green fretwork pattern on cream ground. Fabric label. 12" 2" x 14" 6
Estimate: $1,500 - $3,500
Sale Price: $1,098. A great buy. We all loved it at the store.

GEORGE NAKASHIMA Walnut Turned-Leg dining table with two free edges, three butterfly keys to top, and two leaves. (Provenance available.) Table: 29" x 60 1/2" x 37 3/4", leaves: 17" x 36 1/2"
Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000
Sale Price: $9,760. A fair price.

GEORGE NAKASHIMA Early pair of walnut slat-back lounge chairs. (Provenance available.) 30" x 23 1/2" x 31"
Estimate: $2,500 - $4,500
Sale Price: $4,880. If only I had the place for them.

UDY KENSLEY McKIE Exceptional mahogany dining table, the base carved with birds and fish, 1979. Signed JKM 1979. 30" x 65" x 34 1/2"
Estimate: $60,000 - $90,000

PEDRO FRIEDEBERG Hand chair with three-footed base and gilded finish. Branded Pedro Friedeberg. 35" x 20" x 21"
Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000
Sale Price: $19,520. WOW!

RON KENT Large flaring turned wood bowl. (Provenance: Collection of Kenzo Takada.) Faint script signature. 7 1/2" x 16 1/4
Estimate: $2,000 - $4,000
Sale Price: $2,196. Such a pretty piece. I think someone got a good deal.

MILO BAUGHMAN / THAYER COGGIN Burlwood four-door credenza with white laminate interior on polished chrome base. 34 1/2" x 72" x 18"
Estimate: $2,000 - $4,000
Sale Price: $2,806. Very Rat Pack.

EDWARD WORMLEY / DUNBAR Single-door burlwood bar cabinet with faceted body. Dunbar factory tag. 20 1/2" x 16 1/4"
Estimate: $2,000 - $4,000
Sale Price: $1,952. A Bachelor's buy.

GROSFELD HOUSE Pair of enameled wood bookcases in dark green with silver trim, each with three shelves over single cabinet door. 71" x 30" x 11"
Auction Date: Sat, October 24, 11AM
Estimate: $4,000 - $6,000

DONALD DESKEY Side table with black glass top on banded and chromed steel base. 20 1/4" x 22 1/4" x 15 3/4"
Auction Date: Sat, October 24, 11AM
Estimate: $2,000 - $4,000
Sale Price: $4,575. Loved that table

WENDELL CASTLE Cherry bench with two chip-carved and polychromed supports, 1997. Signed Castle 97. 31" x 77" x 18"
Auction Date: Sat, October 24, 11AM
Estimate: $15,000 - $25,000
DID NOT SELL. Not surprised.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The National Portrait Gallery US Competition

Its not quite up to the UK competition..and why??? Okay, I'll join up..I volunteer and what fun it would be, but lets get serious here we need a full blown competition with major funding. There's no reason that we can't find ( present winners aside) great portrait art, and we have to get to work on that.However, Kudos to the top three.

"Blog portrait competition winners Dave Woody of Fort Collins, Colorado has received first prize in the National Portrait Gallery’s 2009 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. His photograph titled “Laura” was chosen as the winner from a field of over three thousand entries. First prize was a cash award of $25,000 and a commission from the museum to portray a remarkable living American for the NPG permanent collection. The portrait by Dave Woody, as well as works from forty-eight other artists, are on display at the National Portrait Gallery, in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition exhibition on the second floor.

Of his work, Woody comments, “I am never really attracted to photographing subjects who are totally self-aware or self-confident, as I’m more interested in those people who move through this world with a quiet grace. Spending time with friends allows me to see them in a certain light where their mask drops and something soft and inviting is seen, and I’ll think of making a photograph of them.”

Second prize was awarded to Stanley Rayfield of Richmond, Virginia who submitted a painting titled “Dad.”

Third place went to Adam Vinson of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. His oil-on-panel painting is titled “Dressy Bessy Takes a Nap.”

Commended artists are: Margaret Bowland, for a painting titled, “Portrait of Kenyetta and Brianna”; Yolanda del Amo, for her C-print photograph, “Sarah, David”; Gaela Erwin, for her pastel-on-paper, “Baptismal Self-Portrait”; and Emil Robinson for an oil-on- panel portrait titled “Showered.” Each was awarded a cash prize.

These works were finalists in the museum’s second national portrait competition. Of the entries submitted from across the country, forty-nine artists’ works were chosen for display in the exhibition; seven of these works were chosen for the short list. The competition received entries in every visual-arts medium.

NPG Director Martin Sullivan states, “The variety and depth of the entries was encouraging to me since it proved that portraiture is an ever-evolving genre. And best of all, this competition allows the National Portrait Gallery and its visitors to see how today’s artists interpret portraiture in all of its forms.”

Finalists for the 2009 competition were chosen in early May, and the winners were announced at the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition Awards Celebration Thursday, October 22. In addition, one exhibiting artist will win the People’s Choice Award, in which visitors to the exhibition, both online and in the gallery, may cast a vote for their favorite of the forty-nine finalists. Voting for the People’s Choice Award will close January 18, 2010.

The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is named for Virginia Outwin Boochever, a docent for and ardent supporter of the National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition’s catalog describes Mrs. Boochever’s endowment for the portrait competition “as a way to benefit artists directly… as a unique opportunity to fill a void in the American art world.” The works in the Outwin Boochever competition will be on display until August 22, 2010." To view images of the works, see the exhibition website.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Streisand Auction In LALA Land

I didn't cover this auction because, well..because. The LA Times did and you might find it interesting. The results from the Streisand auction.Here is the story.

Friday, October 23, 2009

But Where Do You Wear It?

"National Jewleler -New York--In an event Christie's is terming "an auction to remember," an anonymous buyer paid $7.7 million for the 32.01-carat D-flawless Annenberg Diamond on Wednesday, well surpassing the stone's estimated sale price of $3 million to $5 million.

The diamond, owned by philanthropist Leonore "Lee" Annenberg, who died in March at the age of 91, was mounted in a ring by Manhattan jeweler David Webb.

Its sale set a new, world-record auction price of $240,000 per carat for a colorless diamond, according to Christie's."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two New Installations That Make Me Feel Small But Think Big

"Anish Kapoor's Memory Headed to New York's Guggenheim
Made of Cor-Ten steel, a new material for the artist, Memory measures a staggering 48 feet by 29 by 15.
Nicholas Tamarin -- Interior Design, 10/15/2009

Anish Kapoor Memory Guggenheim
“Memory” by Anish Kapoor, Cor-Ten steel, commissioned by Deutsche Bank in consultation with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin Installation; Photo: Mathias Schormann © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

Having already conquered Chicago's Millennium Park and New York's Rockefeller Center, Anish Kapoor is turning his unique gaze toward the latter city's Guggenheim Museum, where his massive Memory sculpture debuts October 21.

On view through March 28 as part of the 50th anniversary of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed museum, Memory is the first collaboration between the Guggenheim Foundation and the India-born, London-based artist. It comes to the city following a previous outing at Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin.

Anish Kapoor Memory Guggenheim
“Memory” by Anish Kapoor, Cor-Ten steel, commissioned by Deutsche Bank in consultation with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin Installation; Photo: Mathias Schormann © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

Working with Cor-Ten steel for the first time in his career, Kapoor formed a 24-ton, gallery-filling sculpture that measures 48 feet by 29 by 15, the scale and proportion complementing -- and perhaps challenging -- Lloyd's architectural masterpiece.

The work, so named for the processional manner in which it's viewed, can never be seen in its entirety. It divides the gallery space into several distinct viewing areas, including the museum's ramps, elevator banks, and an adjacent gallery.

Anish Kapoor Memory Guggenheim
Computer-generated image of “Memory” installed at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Image courtesy of Aerotrope Limited

Yet each vantage point offers only a glimpse of either the sculpture's exterior form or its interior shell, consisting of seamless 1/3-inch-thick steel tiles, only viewable through a 6 ½ wide aperture, which ensure absolute darkness inside. By viewing it in fragments, visitors are asked to connect and construct the images of Memory retained in their minds. Kapoor calls this process of increased exertion and effort in viewing art "mental sculpture."


Miroslaw Balka’s box of darkness is disturbing in its historical echoes but beautiful as well. The Times, "Miroslaw Balka's black hole at Tate Modern is terrifying, awe-inspiring and throught-provoking. It embraces you with a velvet chill."

The Guardian: "The latest commission in The Unilever Series, How It Is by Polish artist Miroslaw Balka, is a giant grey steel structure holding a vast dark chamber, which in its construction reflects the surrounding architecture of Tate Modern – almost as if the interior space of the Turbine Hall has been turned inside out. Hovering somewhere between sculpture and architecture, it sits on two-metre stilts and stands thirteen metres high and thirty metres long. Visitors can walk underneath it, listening to the echoing sound of footsteps on steel above, or enter via a ramp into its pitch-black interior."

Video of the installation here.

How It Is alludes to recent Polish history – for example, the ramp at the entrance to the Ghetto in Warsaw, or the trucks which took Jews away to the camps of Treblinka or Auschwitz. By entering the dark space, visitors place considerable trust in the organisation, something akin to the risks often taken by immigrants travelling. Balka intends to provide an experience for visitors which is both personal and collective, creating a range of sensory and emotional experiences through sound, contrasting light and shade, individual experience and awareness of others, perhaps provoking feelings of apprehension, excitement or intrigue."

Weschlers Results From Last Saturday

If the weather forecast holds we may see continued chilly wet days this weekend. Perfect for an auction in downtown DC. Adam A. Weschler & Son, Inc.
909 E Street, NW,Washington, D.C. is having a Fine Furniture and Decorations Sale this Saturday, the 17th starting at 10:00 a.m.

I normally give folks more time to peruse the pieces that caught my eye and have a look at the whole catalog but busy days have kept me from my duty. I did take a quick look and found a couple of pieces that appear to be nice buys. This will be a brown auction for Homer as almost everything I picked is old mahogany. However, take a look at the whole catalog. There are some fine rugs and silver and lots of things to entice the eye. This is also a great auction for those with Christmas in mind and that special gift you won't find in the department stores. Lets take a look.

I'm working Saturday at the Kellogg Collection, which is having a great upholstery sale, hint, hint, and won't be able to make the auction so everyone else have fun.

Federal Satinwood Inlaid Walnut Chest of Drawers
Mid-Atlantic States, Probably Maryland, Circa 1800
Having line inlaid drawers enclosed within a case with line inlaid canted corners and diamond-form, bone-inlaid escutcheons. Brasses replaced; some losses to inlay and drawer surrounds.
Height: 42-3/4 in (108.6 cm); Width: 41 in (104.1 cm); Depth: 19-1/4 in (48.9 cm)
Estimate $1,500-2,500. Every man should have one for his Stuff!
SOLD FOR $2,600.00

Chippendale Satinwood Inlaid Walnut Chest of Drawers
Mid-Atlantic States, Probably Winchester, VA, Circa 1780
Brasses replaced; lacking three locks.
Height: 41 in (104.1 cm); Width: 37-1/2 in (95.3 cm); Depth: 19-3/4 in (50.2 cm)
Estimate $1,200-1,800. I'm going to take a guess that this goes for much less. But still will look nice at home.

Set of Six Federal Mahogany Side Chairs
Probably New York, Circa 1815
Each with green upholstered slip seats. Each with veneer losses, particularly to the crest rail and seat rails; three with repairs to scrolled ears at crest rail.

Estimate $400-600. I'm sure a bit bruised, but for that price!

Neoclassical Style Carved Waxed Pine Hearth Surround
Probably English, Late 19th Century
Height: 58 in (147.3 cm); Width: 74 in (188 cm); Depth: 9-1/2 in (24.1 cm)
Estimate $1,000-1,500. I'd leave it just the way it is.

George III Style Satinwood Inlaid and Crossbanded Mahogany Linen Press
Circa 1900
In two parts with a removable cornice; the upper section with two panel doors opening to view three pull-out linen shelves. Brasses replaced; cornice possibly replaced; lacking one interior shelf.
Height: 79 in (200.7 cm); Width: 50 in (127 cm); Depth: 23 in (58.4 cm)
Estimate $2,000-4,000. Put a smallish flat screen in it for the bedroom.

George III Oak Refectory Table
Composed of 18th Century Elements
One end fitted with a frieze drawer.
Height: 32 in (81.3 cm); Length: 95 in (241.3 cm); Depth: 30 in (76.2 cm)
Estimate $1,500-2,500 . For the country style kitchen..hmmm.

Louis Philippe Mahogany Trestle-Base Tric-Trac Table
Third Quarter 19th Century
The top having two slide-out panels opening to view a calamander and bois satiné game board which slides out to reveal a green felt backgammon board over a frieze drawer with green baize divided wells with turned light and dark wood game pieces.
Height: 30-1/2 in (77.5 cm); Width: 34-1/2 in (87.6 cm); Depth: 22-1/2 in (57.2 cm)
Estimate $2,000-3,000. I love classic games tables. A perfect way to while away a chilly fall night next to the fireplace, by candlelight of course.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

R.I.P. Donald Kaufman, Toyland Loses A Great

Stephen Rose for the NYTimes

New York Times Obit:
October 18, 2009
Donald Kaufman, Collector of Toy Cars, Dies at 79

It started in 1950 with a $4 purchase from a friend: an International Harvester Red Baby truck. It grew into one of the largest and most valuable collections of antique toy cars and trucks in the world.

Donald Kaufman, whose trove included a highly prized 1912 Märklin live-steam fire engine before he began auctioning off his treasures in March, died on Monday at his home in Pittsfield, Mass. He was 79.

The cause was a heart attack, his wife, Sally, said.

More than 7,000 cars and trucks were parked bumper to bumper on the plain white shelves that Mr. Kaufman had bought at Home Depot and assembled himself, wall to wall and floor to ceiling, in the four-level annex to his modest country home in western Massachusetts. There were also airplanes and a smattering of other vintage toys.

His “toys” were only distantly related to the products, mostly made of plastic, that Mr. Kaufman had helped to sell over the years as vice president of the KB Toys store chain, from which he retired in 1981. Some of the pieces he owned, like the Märklin steam engine, were detailed works of art that actually worked.

Mr. Kaufman owned vehicles of all kinds: taxicabs (small, medium and large), old trucks bearing signs for brands from long ago (Richfield Gasoline, Filene’s Sons, Sheffield Farms Sealect), ice trucks, water trucks, dump trucks and fire engines. Mostly, they were made of cast iron, tin and pressed steel. A white, windup “Gordon Bennett” race car, made around 1910 by Guntherman in Germany, had a small bellows connected to the rear axle on the underside, so that it could still emit a rumble nearly a century after it was made.

“He owned almost every known variation of every known automotive toy,” said Richard Bertoia of Bertoia Auctions in Vineland, N.J., which is handling the sale of the Kaufman fleet. “Among collectors, he has been clearly declared the most important force this hobby has ever seen.”

In June, three months after the first in what is to be a series of auctions, Mr. Kaufman guided a reporter for The New York Times through what he and his wife called “the museum,” pointing out, however, that only about two dozen other people had ever been inside.

Asked why he was letting go of his beloved toys, he simply said, “It’s time for me to sell.”

And sell they have. At the first session, in March, about 1,400 of the 7,000 toys brought in $4.2 million, well above the $3 million that had been estimated. A three-foot-long train of hand-painted clown cars drew the highest price, $103,500.

At the second session, in September, about 1,100 toys were auctioned, bringing in approximately $3 million. The 1912 Märklin fire engine — 18 inches long, with an exposed boiler and intricate gear work in an open frame — drew the highest price, $149,500. Three more sessions are planned, the first next April.

Starting with that International Harvester Red Baby truck (it has not been sold yet, but is likely to go for a few hundred dollars), Mr. Kaufman spent much of his time over the last 59 years combing through antique stores, bidding in countless auctions and cultivating relationships with toy dealers. He and his wife spent vacations searching the market in Europe and attending nearly every toy show in the Northeast.

“These aren’t my toys,” Mr. Kaufman said in June. “I am just taking care of them.”

Donald Lewis Kaufman was born in Pittsfield on Oct. 8, 1930, one of three children of Harry and Ruth Klein Kaufman. In 1922, his father and uncle started a wholesale company, Kaufman Brothers, that distributed a variety of goods, including candy, soda, stuffed animals, watches and razors.

After attending North Adams State College in Massachusetts and serving in the Army in the early 1950s, Donald Kaufman joined the family business. In 1958, Kaufman Brothers expanded into retail. It became KB Toys in the 1960s and became entirely a retailing operation in 1972. As vice president, Mr. Kaufman played a role in expanding the chain to malls in almost every state. KB was sold to the Melville Corporation in 1981 and went out of business in 2008.

Mr. Kaufman’s first marriage, to the former Faith Dichter, ended in divorce. Besides his second wife, the former Sally Golden, he is survived by his sister, Joan Poultridge; three daughters from his first marriage, Suzanne Ascioti, Deborah Mager and Judith Wortzel; and four grandchildren from his first marriage. He is also survived by a stepson, Jack Roche; a stepdaughter, Mary Ellen Simon; and five step-grandchildren.

A deep fascination impelled Mr. Kaufman’s collecting.

“He didn’t just see a toy,” his wife said. “He would look at that toy and think about the history. He thought about what it was made of, the design, the people who sat there and made it. He would hold it and say, ‘If only it could talk.’ ”

Earlier this Year on Homer.

From the New York Times, yesterday, comes news of more toys!!

After a Life Selling Toys, It’s Time to Sell His Own

Pittsfield, Mass.

WHEN Donald Kaufman decided that he wanted to sell his personal toy collection, an unparalleled trove of some 7,000 antiques from around the world, the news spread quickly among collectors. And it provoked the sort of market upheaval one might expect if the Getty Trust announced it was getting out of the art business.

“Nobody knew just how many toys he had,” said Jeanne Bertoia, the owner of Bertoia Auctions of Vineland, N.J., which is handling the sale. “People saw what he was buying, but no one had seen his collection.”

Part of the allure comes from Mr. Kaufman’s role as a co-founder of the defunct KB Toys store chain, from which he retired in 1981. He has given no reason for selling the collection he spent 59 years amassing, except for a nod toward destiny. “It’s time for me to sell,” he said.

In mid-March, Bertoia Auctions sold a portion of the collection, more than 1,400 toys, bringing in $4.2 million, well above the $3 million that Bertoia had estimated. (Mr. Kaufman’s estimate was $2 million.) Another auction is scheduled for September, after which Mr. Kaufman will still own more toys than he’ll have sold. Four to five more auctions are planned.

At 78, Mr. Kaufman is a tall man with a gentle grandfatherly manner that does little to reveal his ruthlessness in pursuit of pre-World War II toys. His approach to collecting combines erudition and gamesmanship. He enjoys telling the story of a particularly important sale. He rented a U-Haul trailer, hitched it to his capacious Ford Econoline van and parked the rig in front of the auction house as an act of intimidation against other potential buyers.

Transportation toys are Mr. Kaufman’s primary interest, and most pieces in the collection are cars and trucks. Airplanes are a distant third. The toys’ domain is a four-level windowless annex to the average-size country house here in western Massachusetts where Mr. Kaufman and his wife, Sally, live.

The Kaufmans call it “the museum,” though that makes it sound extravagant or grandiose, which undresses some of its charm. Mr. Kaufman assembled the displays himself. He bought plain white shelves at Home Depot and installed them himself. Entering the Kaufman museum, a visitor found antique toy cars parked bumper to bumper on shelves that ran wall to wall and floor to ceiling. There were taxicabs in small, medium and large. Old trucks bore signs for brands long gone: Richfield Gasoline, Filene’s Sons and Sheffield Farms Sealect. There were ice trucks, water trucks, dump trucks and fire engines. The floor — covered with carpet the color of blue topaz — was occupied by a small fleet of pedal cars.

“There are no duplicates,” Mr. Kaufman said proudly in a voice graveled by age. “Only variations.”

Some of the variations were so slight that it was difficult to see the differences. Along one stretch of wall, two red tow trucks were berthed nose-to-tail, one with round windows and the other with square ones. A line of four cast-iron taxicabs from the early 1920s provided an excellent exercise in observation — the only variations were in the color of the tires (silver and white) and hoods (orange and black). The March auction did little to decrease the jam in the museum, so there was not much room to move around.

Ms. Bertoia said the collection was divided into five categories: pedal cars; American cast-iron toys; tin toys, which are more delicate and mostly from Europe; pressed-steel toys; and light pressed-steel toys, including those from an American toymaker, Kingsbury.

“Usually you’d see between 25 and 30 toys in a good collection,” said Mike Bertoia, Ms. Bertoia’s son, of the Kingsburys. Mr. Kaufman, he said, has more than 150.

It takes a moment to see anything other than the sheer magnitude of the collection. Tighten the focus and intricate details emerge: the mechanical meter in a taxi, a hand-painted mustache on a driver, the brass fixtures of a fire engine’s water pump. The auction catalog showed that most were in very good, excellent, near-mint or pristine condition.

Sitting on a shelf along the staircase between the first and second floors, a white wind-up “Gordon Bennett” racecar made around 1910 by Guntherman of Germany hardly looked a century old. On the underside of the car was a small bellows connected to the rear axle, which Mr. Bertoia said still provided the car with engine noise. Another German toy, the Märklin Fidelitas, a whimsical three-foot-long train of delicate hand-painted clown cars, brought $103,500, the highest sale price at the first auction.

Mr. Kaufman likes to say that he wonders what the toys would say if they could talk. He explained that when he looked at an Arcade Mack high dump truck, he saw more than a toy vehicle. “I see the rubber factory that made the tires,” he said. “I see the metal factory, the press — the original cars.”

Born and raised in Pittsfield, Mr. Kaufman was always interested in antique cars and trucks. The first toy in his collection was an International Harvester Red Baby truck that he bought for $4 in 1950, the year he began working for the family business.

KB stands for Kaufman Brothers. Mr. Kaufman’s father and uncle founded the company in 1922 as a wholesaler. They carried goods as diverse as confections and sundries, sodas, razors, stuffed animals and watches, Mr. Kaufman said. Toys did not come along until after World War II.

In 1958, Kaufman Brothers expanded into retail, became KB Toys in the 1960s, and stopped wholesaling altogether in 1972. Mr. Kaufman does not boast about his role in the business, but he was the first vice president and had a hand in turning KB Toys into one of the biggest toy chains in the world, with hundreds of stores across the country.

Mr. Kaufman attended his first major auction shortly after he retired and found a community that welcomed his growing curiosity about antique toys. “I started talking to other collectors,” he said. “You learn everything from them.”

Mrs. Kaufman was not with her husband for that first auction — they met in 1988 — but she has been involved in his hobby since they have been together. A smartly dressed woman with short red hair who could draw comparisons to the actress Leslie Caron, she drove the van to many of the auctions and set up the vendor displays at toy shows for pieces that Mr. Kaufman wanted to sell.

Mrs. Kaufman told a story about one of her first experiences, when the collection of the closed Perelman Toy Museum in Philadelphia was being sold. The sale was held in the museum, and the buyers — each guaranteeing to spend at least $50,000 — had to race for the pieces they wanted.

She smiled and her eyes shone brightly as she told the story. And in many ways, the Kaufman collection is a diary of their lives together. The annex is a very private place. Mr. Kaufman said fewer than 25 people had been inside.

But if he is sad to see the collection go, he is not showing it.

He said he was not keeping a single toy, not even that first International Harvester Red Baby truck. “These aren’t my toys,” he said a couple of times during the day. “I am just taking care of them for now.”

But there are clues everywhere that the toys are more than just a passing interest. On the staircase between the first and second floors, Mrs. Kaufman pointed out a step ladder and two wooden planks.

“Don put those planks on top of the ladder and stood on them when he arranged the shelves above the stairs,” she said. She considered that thought for a moment, shook her head, smiling, and disappeared upstairs.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Christie’s Sells $18.3 Million, Lures Buyers With Low Estimates

By Scott Reyburn

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Christie’s International last night attracted buyers with reduced estimates, selling all but one of just 25 contemporary artworks it selected for its London auction.

Christie’s total for the event, timed to coincide with the Frieze Art Fair, was 11.2 million pounds ($18.3 million), which included fees. This was almost double the presale low estimate of 6.8 million pounds, based on hammer prices. Three works sold for more than 1 million pounds, led by 2.3 million pounds for a Martin Kippenberger work. Half of the lots were bought by North American-based bidders, said the London-based auction house.

“There were some good things in the auction and estimates were reasonable,” said New York-based dealer Christophe van de Weghe. “It will give buyers confidence. People are able to see things are selling and there’s no panic in the market.”

The volume of sales at contemporary-art auctions dropped between 70 percent and 80 percent and the prices of works by 50 percent or more since the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. last September, said the London-based research company ArtTactic.

Christie’s equivalent auction last October, containing 47 lots, took 32 million pounds, against a lower valuation of 57.8 million pounds. Forty-five percent of the material failed to sell at that time. Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips de Pury stopped guaranteeing minimum prices to sellers at the end of 2008. Collectors have been reluctant to offer high-priced works in public without guarantees; auction companies are selling more pieces through discreet private transactions, often for higher prices than they would have achieved under the hammer.

Big Frieze

“Frieze is a big week in London,” said Francis Outred, Christie’s European head of contemporary art. “We wanted to get the right property at the right price. There were a few come-on estimates that attracted a good mixture of bargain hunters and big-game hunters,” he said.

A 2004 Rudolf Stingel silver wallpaper painting that failed to sell at Christie’s London in February 2008 against a low estimate of 500,000 pounds was re-offered last night at 150,000 pounds to 200,000 pounds. A flurry of bidding pushed the price up to 289,250 pounds.

“Prices are back to the level of 2006 and 2007,” said Van de Weghe.

Kippenberger’s 1991 painting, “Paris Bar,” sold to a telephone buyer, with New York dealer Tony Shafrazi the underbidder. The 13-foot-wide depiction of the Berlin bar that was once frequented by himself, David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Andy Warhol was entered by a European collector and had never been offered at auction before. The artist died in 1997, aged 44.

Pop Life

Another version of the same subject by the artist’s contemporary, Daniel Richter, is currently on show in the “Pop Life” exhibition at Tate Modern. At least six bidders contested the painting, which was estimated at 800,000 pounds to 1.2 million pounds. New York dealer Jeffrey Deitch paid a further 1.1 million pounds, double the low estimate, for Kippenberger’s 1991 panel painting of a street mounted with wall lights, “Kellner Des... (Waiter Of...)”

Peter Doig’s 1994 canvas “Pine House (Rooms for Rent)” was another re-offer, having failed to achieve its low estimate of $4.5 million at Christie’s New York in November, when it was guaranteed. Now owned in whole or part by the auction house, it sold to a lone telephone bid of 1.4 million pounds against a revised estimate of 1.5 million pounds to 2 million pounds.

Signal Box

The sale’s other main success was the double-estimate -- and record -- 892,450 pounds paid for “Stellwerk” (Signal Box), a 1999 painting by Leipzig School artist Neo Rauch.

Christies will be offering 145 lots of “Part II” quality material today with a low estimate of 2.9 million pounds.

Earlier yesterday, Sotheby’s held a 217-lot auction of contemporary art that combined its “Part I” and “Part II” quality material, bolstered by a section of Arab and Iranian works. The event achieved a total of a mid-estimate 12.8 million pounds, with 73 percent of the pieces finding buyers.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1983 acrylic and oilstick painting “Fuego Flores” was the most expensive lot, selling to a telephone bidder for 959,650 pounds against a high estimate of 1.2 million pounds. The 5-foot-6-inch-high painting, featuring a half-length figure with one of Basquiat’s trademark skull faces, had recently been authenticated by the artist’s estate. Two slightly larger paintings by Basquiat from 1982 fetched 6.5 million pounds and $13.5 million at auctions in London and New York last year.

Damien Hirst’s pale-blue-and-white 2006 circular butterfly painting “Retribution” sold to the New York collector Jose Mugrabi for 541,250 pounds against an estimate of 450,000 pounds to 650,000 pounds.

Hirst Incarnate

The 6-foot-8-inch-diameter household-gloss-on-canvas was a similar size as, and a similar color to, the 2008 butterfly work “Reincarnated,” which had a low valuation of 500,000 pounds at the company’s “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever” sale last September. That work went on to fetch 1.6 million pounds with fees. The ArtTactic Average Price Index for Hirst butterfly paintings has dropped 41 percent since September 2008, said the research company’s founder Anders Petterson.

“It’s very difficult to value things at the moment,” said the New York-based art adviser David Nisinson, who bought a 1990 Gerhard Richter abstract for 529,250 pounds at Sotheby’s against a low estimate of 500,000 pounds. “So little has been traded recently that it’s hard to know what things are worth. It’s a market in flux. There’s more confidence than there was, but it’s fragile and depends on the financial markets. At least a lot of people have a lot more money than they did six months ago,” he said.

Kapoor Mirror

An 8-foot-diameter Anish Kapoor stainless-steel-mirror sculpture, dating from 1997, sold to a telephone bidder for 825,250 pounds against an estimate of 600,000 pounds to 800,000 pounds. The sculpture had been acquired from London’s Lisson Gallery, which has just sold a new 4-foot-diameter Kapoor mirror piece, this time in gold, priced at 475,000 pounds at the Frieze Art Fair.

For the first time, Christie’s and Sotheby’s also held their October auctions of 20th-century Italian works on the same day as their contemporary-art sales. Christie’s took 5.8 million pounds from 37 lots, while Sotheby’s achieved 7.4 million pounds from 33 lots of Italian material.

Sotheby’s sales included nine works donated by artists to benefit Harefield Hospital, a unit on the outskirts of London specializing in cardiac surgery. The auction was the idea of surgeon Jullien Gaer, who invited artists to visit the hospital.

Grayson Perry’s glazed ceramic “Urn for the Living,” depicting surgeons around a gaping hole in the body of the pot, was inspired by observation of an open-heart operation. It sold for a hammer price of 48,000 pounds, near to the top estimate of 50,000 pounds. The section generated a total of 485,000 pounds for the hospital.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Scott Reyburn in London at

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Auction Results From The Estate of William F. Reilly

The auction total came to a Sale Total: $6,523,312 (U.S. dollars). Quality retains its value. Take a look.

I was stunned by the beauty of this collection and picked but a few things that really caught my eye. Most are very expensive but there are a couple of pieces that while truly great looking are within the reach of this shanty Irishman, or you should you be so tempted. The full catalogue is here and will have you salivating at his good taste.

Depicted in profile, wearing armor, within a Louis XV giltwood frame with partial printed paper label for CH. POTTIER EMBALLAMEUR-PACKER/PARIS, and with a further paper label with painted '2919', the leather rebacked
28 in. (71 cm.) high, 22½ in. (57 cm.) wide (the portrait), 36 in. (91.5 cm.) high, 30½ in. (77.5 cm.) wide, overall
$20,000.00 - $30,000.00
SOLD FOR $37,500.00

With a green tôle shade and pierced circular base, shade redecorated, electrified
26 in. (66 cm.) high, overall
$7,000.00- $10,000.00

23½in. (59.5cm.) high (2)
$600.00 - $800.00
SOLD FOR $4,375.00. OH MY GOSH!

Each grimacing dolphin with upright scrolling tail
33 in. (83.8 cm.) high (2)
$20,000.00 - $40,000.00

Each stem in the form of an armilliary sphere
12 in. (31 cm.) high (2)
$700.00 - $900.00

REIGN 98-117 A.D.
His long wavy locks combed forward over the crown of the head, their pointed tips curving left across the forehead, the locks defined by deep drill-work and incision, the large almond-shaped eyes framed by thick lids, the inner canthi deeply drilled, the modelled brows overhanging the inner corners of the eyes, with vertical furrows above the nose, the thin lips pursed, the outer corners slightly downturned and framed by pronounced nasolabial folds, the muscular neck rippled from the slight turn to his left
19½ in. (49.5 cm.) high
$100,000.00 - $150,000.00

With masks and loop handles, on a square red marble plinth
18½ in. (47 cm.) high, 16 in. (40.6 cm.) wide (2)
$7,000.00 - $10,000.00

CIRCA 540-530 B.C.
The obverse with a nude youth on horseback in profile to the right, riding one horse and leading a second horse beside, both horses with their heads lowered, flanked by two large draped youths, a fillet in the field; the reverse with a nude youth on horseback; alternating red and black tongues above, a lotus and palmette quatrefoil on the neck, details in added red
14¾ in. (37.5 cm.) high
$20,000.00 - $30,000.00
SOLD FOR $32,500.00

The hinged oval top above double gatelegs
29 in. (73.5 cm) high, 101½ in. (258 cm.) wide, 57 in. (145 cm.) deep
$30,000.00 - $50,000.00. Dont'ya love Irish furniture.

Each with engraved brass banding, bail handle and removable brass liner
17 in. (43 cm.) high, 15½ in. (39.5 cm.) diameter (2)
$15,000.00 - $25,000.00. Wow what a way to serve Guinness.
SOLD FOR $17, 500.00

Decorated with figural cartouches
8¾ in. (22 cm.) wide
$400.00 - $600.00
SOLD FOR $1,250.00

Rectangular, on curule frame
$1,000.00 - $1,500.00. That's the piece I want!!! So we'll see how much it goes for with great interest.

The dentil-carved cornice above cartouche-paneled doors and two short over a long drawer on ogee bracket feet, decorated throughout with Chinoiserie vignettes and animals, pulls and locks later, refreshments to decoration
$80,000.00 - $120,000.00

Square, with a mahogany-lined medial drawer
$4,000.00 - $6,000.00

CIRCA 1760
The shaped top pierced with quartrefoils over a fluted and paterae-carved frieze on molded legs with guttae feet
$20,000 - $30,000.00
SOLD FOR $27,500.00