A Year in Review
As 2018 draws to a close, we reflect on the year’s auctions
17 December 2018
As 2018 draws to a close, we reflect on the year’s auctions.
Works by George Nakashima, Paul Evans, Wharton Esherick, Phil Powell and Wendell Castle remained in high demand at Rago Auctions, as did works by designer and sculptor Harry Bertoia. Over 35 work by Bertoia were offered by the auction house in 2018 including a bumper crop of ‘Sonambient’ sounding sculptures and an exceptionally large ‘Bush’ sculpture, which sold for $275,000 against a high estimate of $125,000 - our top selling piece of Bertoia to date.
Early 20th C. Design
While prices for furniture and design from the turn-of-the last-century remain below their peak, there is still ample room on the secondary market for rare items of exceptional quality and condition. Several noteworthy pieces sold through Rago in 2018, including a rare Gustav Stickley lantern for $68,750; a Martin Brothers bird-form tobacco jar for $112,500, and an important squeeze-bag decorated vase by Frederick H. Rhead for $93,750 - a new world record for a pot by Rhead.
Rago’s 2018 fine art auctions demonstrated that the market is hungry for strong works at the right price. The American and European Art auctions in May and November both brought about the sale of a broad selection of fresh-to-market paintings. Two stellar examples: A small interior scene titled The Dutch Door by Winslow Homer that brought $137,500 against an estimate of $30,000 – 50,000 and a winter landscape titled Winter Night by George Sotter depicting his studio, which sold for $200,000 against an estimate of $70,000 – 100,000.
Works by female artists were among the best selling in this year’s Post-War + Contemporary Art Auctions. Notable among them: Elaine Frances (Horan) Sturtevant's Warhol's Marilyn Monroe which sold for $125,000 and a mixed media construction by Lenore Tawney which sold for $25,000. Other highlights included Arshile Gorky’s Still Life with Pitcher which sold for $175,000; a signed and numbered Bald Eagle screenprint by Andy Warhol which sold for $81,250; and Sigmar Polke’s enigmatic motorized sculpture Apparatus Whereby One Potato Can Orbit Another which sold for $75,000.
Rago continued its commitment to representing single-owner collections in 2018, with sales and segments offered throughout the year including: Property from the Collection of Seymour Stein, Founder of Sire Records; The Daphne Farago Collection of Decorative Arts; Autobiography of a Hoarder: The Collection of Martin Cohen; and Property from the Collection of Debra Lee, former CEO of BET, for whom Rago sold the glass sculpture Masai by Lino Tagliapietra in May, achieving $118,750 against a $40,000 high estimate, setting a new auction record for the artist.
Fine + Antique Jewelry
Rago’s Jewelry Auctions grew 24% in 2018, achieving top prices for works of fine and antique jewelry, as well as designer pieces by makers such as Tiffany & Co., Seaman Schepps and Cartier. The auction house was privileged to offer for sale an exceptionally rare ring and necklace by Marie Zimmermann, the latter of which sold for $53,125, a record price for a piece of jewelry by this master. The highest selling jewelry lot of the year, featured in Rago’s December Jewelry Auction, was a 6.43 cts. Tiffany & Co. "Lucida” diamond ring which realized a final sale price of $187,500.
Remix and Special Segments
In October, Rago held the auction Tribal Art from the Collection of Allan Stone and Other Owners with tribal art expert John Buxton serving as the independent specialist-in-charge. The sale, which brought together tribal art from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania, totaled $969,000. A highlight of the sale, a headdress from the Ekoi people of Nigeria, sold for $115,625, the highest price we can find for an Ekoi headdress sale at auction.
The break-out star in Rago’s Remix: Classic and Contemporary Auctions was a pair of Yongzheng Style porcelain loving bowls offered in April. With a pre-sale estimate of $1,000 – 1,500, they exceeded all expectations to sell for $102,400 to a Bidsquare bidder online, demonstrating the power and reach of internet bidding.
Rago’s second Curiouser and Curiouser Auction saw strong sale results for outsider art, fine art and some extraordinary objects. Highlights included Judith Schaechter’s Waste which sold for $21,250; Jon Serl’s painting Serl’s Headstone which sold for $20,000; and a rare French 19th century musical automaton which sold for $18,750 - all well above their pre-sale estimates. The cover lot and star of the sale, a carved and painted figure of a boy by Asa Ames, sold to an in-house bidder for $53,125.