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Art Market Watch
5/23/02


ROCKWELL RECORD AT SOTHEBY'S
Sotheby's New York auction of American art on May 22, 2002, set a new world record for Norman Rockwell, when his iconic Rosie the Riveter (1943) sold for $4,959,500 (with premium), just below its high presale estimate. In the famous image of militant American femininity, Rosie breaks from work to lunch on a ham sandwich, her pneumatic riveter on her lap, a compact in her pocket and Hitler's Mein Kampf under her foot. Buyer was Elliot Yeary Gallery of Aspen, Colo., on behalf of Ranger Endowments Management, a Dallas investment firm. Rockwell's previous record was $937,500, paid in 1996 at Sotheby's for The Watchmaker.

Overall, Sotheby's sold 171 of 209 lots, or 82 percent, for a total of $32,732,448. Marsden Hartley's mystical, early modernist Painting No. 6 (1913) sold for $2,759,500 (est. $1,500,000-$2,000,000), a new record for the artist. Other top lots included George Bellows' Evening Swell (1911), a simple, moody painting of two fishermen coming ashore under a looming bluff on Maine's Monhegan Island, which sold for $2,539,500 (est. $1,500,000-$2,000,000), and Albert Bierstadt's Wapiti, a glorious painting of a herd of elk grazing during a golden sunset, which went for $834,500 (est. $800,000-$1,000,000).

One surprise at the auction was the sale of Sanford Robinson Gifford's Twilight in the Adirondacks (1864), a small (ca. 11 x 19 in.) oil of a party of explorers making camp at riverside, for $526,500, well over its $60,000 high estimate. And in these patriotic times, Rembrandt Peale's classic Portrait of George Washington (ca. 1819) sold for $439,500, about three times its high presale estimate of $150,000. Buyer was Leigh Keno American Antiques.

Disappointments in the 19th-century portion of the sale included Maurice Prendergast's The Deer Park (ca. 1914-15) (est. $1,500,000-$2,000,000) and William Merrit Chase's Friendly Advice (est. $1,000,000-$1,500,000), which were bought in.

For illustrations and complete auction information, see Artnet's unique Fine Art Auction Results.

PHILLIPS DOES $14 MILLION IN FIRST AMERICAN SALE
Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg's sale of American art on May 21, 2002, the first organized by the house and its American specialist Betty Krulik, totaled a "triumphant" $13,999,555 and set 12 artists' records. In all, 77 of 85 lots found buyers, for a 89 percent sale rate. The collection of 28 marine paintings assembled by Glen S. Foster, the Olympic-medal yachtsman and New York Stock Exchange member who died in 2000, sold for a total of $8.2 million. Prices given here include the buyer's premium of 15 percent on the first $50,000 and 10 percent on the remainder (rather less than that charged at Phillips' competition, Sotheby's and Christie's).

Top lot was Fitz Hugh Lane's spectacularly Luminist Ship in Fog, Gloucester Harbor (ca. 1860) which went for $904,500, nicely above its high presale estimate of $800,000. Another Lane painting, "Star Light" in Harbor (ca. 1855), a sparkling portrait of the Boston clipper ship from the Foster collection, took second place, selling for $772,500, under its presale low estimate of $800,000.

Many of the Foster paintings sold for in excess of their estimates and set artist's records, including "Puritan" Leading "Genesta," America's Cup 1885 by James E. Buttersworth, which went for $728,500, well above a high estimate of $300,000. Another surprise was Jasper Francis Cropsey's Greenwood Lake (1879), a serene upstate vista marked with autumn foliage, which sold for $673,500 (est. $250,000-$350,000). The Cropsey record, set at a 1999 auction in England, is about $2.8 million.

Among the sale's 20th century pictures, Charles Burchfield's large painting of an American chestnut tree, Summer Solstice (1961-66), sold from the Spiro Family collection for $486,500 (est. $400,000-$600,000).

For illustrations and complete auction information, see Artnet's unique Fine Art Auction Results.

ALL CATS, ALL THE TIME
Had enough of riveters and American landscapes? Well, how about cats? Skinner, the Boston-based auctioneer, is featuring the first "All Cat" auction ever held in the U.S. on Sept. 13, 2002. "Feline fanatics and tabby enthusiasts" are enlisted to take part in "perhaps the greatest tribute to the cat as a muse for artists, artisans and art lovers." Among the highlights of the sale is Carl Kahler's My Wife's Lovers (1891), a painting featuring 42 cats of different breeds. For more information, contact Skinner's American art expert Colleene Fesko at cfesko@skinnerinc.com.

"NETTING" BOOSTS AUCTION TOTALS: WSJ
In her recent wrap-up of last week's sales of contemporary art, ace Wall Street Journal art-auction reporter Alexandra Peers identified a new practice that harried auctioneers can use to boost sales percentages of struggling art auctions. Known as "netting," the practice involves having the auction house pay the final portion of a winning bid in order to show the item as sold -- in other words, lowering the reserve of the lot while the bidding is going on. Peers did not identify any specific sales in which "netting" was employed.

BOURGEOIS SCULPTURE TO CLEVELAND
The Cleveland Museum has announced that it was the auction buyer of Blind Man's Buff, a multi-breasted 1984 marble work by the 91-year-old American artist Louise Bourgeois. The sculpture, which sold for $1,439,500 at Christie's New York on May 14, 2002 -- well over its presale estimate of $600,000-$800,000 -- is an auction record for the artist. The work is slated to go on view at the museum on June 18, concurrent with the exhibition at Cleveland's Star Plaza this June of Bourgeois' three giant bronze spiders, previously seen at Rockefeller Center in New York and the Tate Modern in London.

DATES SET FOR LAS VEGAS ART FAIR
As Art Chicago loses some of its luster -- sales were sporadic at the most recent installment, earlier this month, with only a minimal participation of European dealers -- Thomas Blackman Associates has another fair in the works. Art Las Vegas is currently slated to bow in a giant, 125,000-square-foot tent at the Palms Casino and Resort, Oct. 11-14, 2002, with "easy access" to shopping and casinos. Some 125 galleries are expected to be on hand, though as yet no specifics are available. For more info, call (312) 587-3300 or visit www.art-lv.com.

PLAYBOY ARCHIVES AT BUTTERFIELDS
California auction firm Butterfields Auctioneers plans to offer original commissioned illustrations and art works from the Playboy magazine archives in a sale at its Los Angeles gallery, June 23, 2002. Many of the works date from the magazine's earliest days -- it was founded in 1953 -- and include pieces by Roger Brown, Edward Gorey, Leroy Neiman, Ed Paschke, Alberto Vargas and Andy Warhol. More than 450 items are to be offered in all, including photographs of celebrities, cover designs and preliminary layouts hand-marked with comments by Hugh Hefner. The trove goes on view at Butterfields, 7601 W. Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, June 19-22, and online at www.butterfields.com and www.playboy.com.



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