The auction world ended the year on a high note with numerous records set this fall, including a record online price and the highest total for a private collection of photography.
The record for the most expensive item sold to an online bidder at any international auction house was set at Christie’s American Art Auction when Edward Hopper’s 1946 oil painting “October on Cape Cod” sold for $9.6 million.
Hopper (1882-1967), a New York native who spent six months almost every year at his home in Truro, would drive around the Cape in search of subject matter, often drawing and painting from his car. The house and small barn pictured from across a deserted road in “October on Cape Cod” is a scene one would see from the window of a passing car.
The auction’s second highest selling painting was “Sun Water Maine,” a pastel painted in 1922 by Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), which sold for $2.2 million. With its rhythmic pattern of lines and softly modulated colors, the painting manifests the sense of boundlessness that O’Keeffe, a Wisconsin native, encountered while standing at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean at York Beach during her first visit to Maine in 1920.
The auction grossed $38,469,650.
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Two of O’Keeffe’s celebrated flower paintings brought the top prices at
Sotheby’s annual fall auction of American art, followed by two Norman Rockwell paintings.
O’Keeffe’s 1927 “Autumn Leaf II,” a 32-by-21-inch oil, brought $4.3 million, the artist’s second highest price ever at auction, while her 1938 pastel “A White Camellia” went for $3.2 million, each selling well above its high estimate.
Five works by Rockwell brought a total of $6.1 million, more than doubling the high estimate of $3 million. Leading the group was his 1941 “The Muscle Man” (estimate $600,000-$800,000) that sold for $2.2 million, the auction’s third highest price, followed by his 1942 “Doll and Doctor” (estimate $500,000-$700,000), which was originally commissioned for an Upjohn ad and fetched $1.9 million.
The auction grossed $27,608,500.
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The highest total ever for a private collection of photography was achieved at Sotheby’s when “A Show of Hands: The Collection of Henry Buhl” sold for $12,318,704.
Bidders from around the world competed for the photographs, which Denise Bethel, head of Sotheby’s Photographs Department, described as “the very best examples of classic images from the first half of the 20th century.”
Tied for top seller were Herbert Bayer’s 1932 “Lonely Metropolitan” and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s 1925 “Fotogramm,” each selling for $1.5 million, and each setting a record for the artist. Records also were set for Man Ray’s 1922 “Rayograph With Hand, Lens and Egg” ($866,500) and for El Lissitzky’s 1924 “The Constructor” ($506,500).
The majority of the proceeds from the sale went to The Buhl Foundation founded in 1989 by Buhl, 82, the Detroit-born art collector and philanthropist. The mission of the foundation is to further the well-being and enhance the quality of life of underprivileged individuals by supporting education, the homeless, and the arts.
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Christie’s two-day auction of The Steven A. Greenberg Collection, the most important collection of French Art Deco ever to be presented in the United States, totaled $17,237,438, with the top seller, a circa 1922-25 lacquered, incised, and painted wood screen by the Irish-born designer Eileen Gray (1879-1976) that brought $1.9 million.
It was followed by a circa 1937 oil on canvas, “Allegorie de Tissu” by Jean Dupas, that sold for $1.7 million, more than six times its high $250,000 estimate and setting a world auction record for the artist.
Jean Dunand’s circa 1925 lacquered metal vase inlaid with eggshell sold for $902,500, more than quadrupling its high $200,000 estimate, while his 1923 square occasional table of lacquered wood inlaid with eggshell fetched $602,500.
Greenberg, who started collecting French Art Deco in the 1970s, died in February at 68. Among his many endeavors, he once owned New York’s Gramercy Park Hotel,
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Two masterpieces of 20th-century literature sold at Christie’s Fine Books and Documents Auction this month, F. Scott Fitz-gerald’s “The Great Gatsby” for $134,500 and Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” for $10,000.
Both novels were first published in 1925 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, but the “A Farewell to Arms” that sold at the Dec. 7 auction was from a 1929 limited edition of 510 copies signed by Hemingway.
Topping the auction was the $782,500 paid for each of three documents: an official 1823 engraving of the Declaration of Independence by W.I. Stone; the original 1861 autographed draft of Julia Ward Howe’s “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”; and Revolutionary War battle plans and maps by the cartographer Charles Blaskowitz.
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A painting by the South Korean artist Park Soo-Keun (1915-65), whose works sold for $20 or $30 to US servicemen stationed in South Korea during the 1950s and can now command six-figure sums, highlights John McInnis’s auction Monday at 10 a.m. at its Amesbury gallery.
“Recess,” a 9-by-12-inch oil on board depicting four figures, has a $200,000-$400,000 estimate. It descended in the family of a Lutheran minister who was in Seoul on a humanitarian mission in the 1950s. Two other small paintings, each with a $200,000-$300,000 estimate, were sold by McInnis in 2008 and 2010 for $460,000 each.
Headlining the furniture is a Queen Anne walnut bonnet-top highboy, probably Newburyport, which has a $10,000-$20,000 estimate.
Other highlights are as varied as an Abraham Lincoln mourning locket ($10,000-$15,000), an Andy Warhol screenprint on wallpaper ($15,000-
$25,000), and a fire bucket ($1,000-
$2,000) that descended in the Noyes family of Newburyport.
The 14-karat gold locket, its interior bezel engraved “A Lincoln, Obt. April 15, 1865,” contains a lock of the president’s hair and is being sold with six cartes de visite, including two of the president and his son Tad.
Virginia Bohlin can be reached at globe