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Art Market Watch

What better place to learn about art and money than the Getty Trust, whose luxurious endowment had ballooned to over $8 billion in 2002? The Getty Center in Los Angeles opens "The Business of Art: Evidence from the Art Market," Mar. 16-June 13, 2004, featuring a documentary look at the machinations of the art business over the last 400 years. The show, drawn from the Getty's vast research library, spans the 16th through the 20th century, and includes letters, inventories, diaries, auction manuals and press clippings. Among the treasures is a receipt signed by Guercino that values two of his paintings by the number of figures in the compositions, which is contrasted with a somewhat more sophisticated example of marketing from Guido Reni, a letter to a client giving a painting as a gift but requesting a reward in return showing respect for its quality. The show also presents a case study tracing the movement of Rembrandt's Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels through the 20th-century art market, items from the Getty's archives of the pre-eminent late-18th-century dealers the Duveen Brothers, and correspondence from 20th-century art historian John Pope-Hennessy and Clement Greenberg.

The New York auction calendar during the month of January is typically loaded with sales of both Americana and Old Masters. A brief outline of the month's results at Christie's and Sotheby's follows (all sale prices include the buyer's premium -- 19.5 percent on the first $100,000 and 12 percent on the remainder at Christie's, and 20 percent on the first $100,000 and 12 percent on the remainder at Sotheby's).
  • Christie's sale of American furniture, folk art, silver, prints and Outsider Art during Jan. 15-16, 2004, totaled $12,460,158, with 490 of 670 lots selling, or 73 percent. Auction records for furniture were set for the sale's two star lots: an 18th-century Massachusetts Chippendale mahogany bomb chest-of-drawers from the Haraden-Ropes Family sold for $2,023,500, well above its $900,000 presale estimate; and a Chippendale block-and-sale bureau table probably made in ca. 1790 by Rhode Island craftsman John Townsend sold for $1,911,500, also above a high estimate of $900,000.

    In the folk art section of the sale, an 18th-century portrait by the Gansevoort Limner of Elizabeth Van Dyke Vosburgh in all her finery sold for $175,400, a new auction record for the artist. Among the weathervanes offered, a 12-foot zinc and sheet-copper Indian trade sign sold for $130,700.

    One highlight of the Outsider Art section of the sale included the $35,850 paid for William Edmundson's limestone sculpture of a squirrel. A pair of drawings by Bill Traylor sold for double their presale estimates, with Untitled (Stove Form) going for $28,650 and Untitled (Red Construction) bringing $21,510.

  • Sotheby's four-day series of sales of Americana, Jan. 15-18, totaled $13,575,920, just above the presale total high estimate of $12.4 million. A bidding battle drove up the price of a Chippendale mahogany tall case clock, probably made in Philadelphia ca. 1775, to $803,200, well above the presale high estimate of $600,000 and a new record for an American clock at auction.

    Other top lots included a Chippendale carved and figured mahogany games table from New York, ca. 1765, which sold for $388,800 (est. $100,000-$150,000), and a Chippendale carved cherrywood side chair from Philadelphia, ca. 1770, that brought $153,600 (est. $50,000-$100,000). A late 19th-century carved and painted pine cigar store Indian from Detroit sold for $153,600, well above the presale estimate of $50,000.

    A 1956-57 painting of New York City by Ralph Fasanella, consigned by the work's only owner, a friend of the artist's, sold for $366,400, above the presale high estimate of $150,000.

    American folk art from the collection of Raymond and Susan Egan totaled $1,157,240, above a high estimate of $818,000. The Alice and Murray Braunfeld collection of American furniture and decorations sold for $3,710,600, just above the presale high estimate of $3.5 million.
  • Sotheby's sale of Old Master paintings and European works of art on Jan. 22 totaled $31,172,200 with 201 of 288 lots sold, or just under 70 percent. Top lot was A Winter Scene with Many Figures Skating by the deaf and mute Dutch artist Hendrick Barentsz. Avercamp, which sold to Richard Green Fine Art for $8,688,000 (est. $4,000,000-$6,000,000).

    Several other top lots soared above their presale estimates, including Haarlem, the Interior of the Nieuwe Kerk by Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, which went for $1,856,000 (est. $600,000-$800,000), and View of Isola Bella in Lake Maggiore by Vanvitelli, which went for $1,576,000 (est. $150,000-$200,000).
  • Christie's Old Master paintings sale on Jan. 23 totaled $11.6 million, with buyers snapping up 146 of 197 lots, or 74 percent. Top price was $4,039,500 paid for the 18th-century Spanish still-life painter's Luis Egidio Melndez' sharp-focus Arbutus Berries on a Plate. . ., well above the presale high estimate of $2,000,000 and a new auction record for the artist. Another world auction record was sent for a work by the 14th-century Florentine painter Giovanni Bonsi, whose tempera and gold altarpiece sold for $511,500 (est. $200,000-$300,000).
For complete, illustrated auction results in the Old Master category, see Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.

Laura Paulson has been appointed senior vice president in Christie's post-war and contemporary art department, working alongside department heads Brett Gorvy and Amy Cappellazzo. Paulson previously worked at Christie's from 1989 to '99; she had recently left Sotheby's, where she was director of contemporary art, North and South America.