Some Results From Sales at Heritage Auctions

Since moving to Dallas it’s been great fun to attend the events in the preview galleries including barbeques for Western Art and the Tuesday’s at Slocum lecture series. Last night was no exception for a talk from David Michaels on Empires of Mystery: Afghanistan and India.

The few coins on display, however might not be noticed among an array of decorative arts, American and European paintings, art of the American West, silver and other items. Much of the decorative arts and silver was there from a past auction and a list of unsold items was provided along with white wine, crème-broulette on little spoons and anti-pasta on a stick. I inquired about several pieces of Chinese silver and it turned out they had sold at or above the reserve value. In fact, they told me all the Chinese silver had sold well. Beside me I later heard one gentleman commenting to another that the prices for European silver were paltry compared to what the Chinese pieces were fetching.

Of course these days everything Chinese seems to carry a premium. While there may be many more years of growth ahead, I still have to wonder how far out of whack these things can get. Particularly in terms of silver where the weight of the object or material content a major factor, it may only be a matter of time before buyers start looking back at what’s being left behind.

Away from the food and closer to the lecture in the second room and a number of figural bronzes still conveyed their greetings. Most of those, I was told sold. So did an elaborate Italian bedroom suite in the corner. Two Rookwood plaques in the case didn’t sell, however. Either that can be chalked up to Dallas or Rookwood’s not still experiencing the demand it did a year or two ago.

I didn’t personally watch those sales, but I did watch the first part of the American and European paintings auction this morning. It was hard to make rhyme or reason of what sold and passed. In the European category I noted a work by Renoir went below the low estimate at $140,000 and the works by Cortez all sold well, which was expected given their popularity among Dallas collectors and decorators. A work by Karl Daubigny with a high estimate of $3,500 sold for more than $10,000.

On the American side, a work by George Inness with unusually intense colors failed to sell, as did the most conventional-looking Ralph Blakelock I’ve seen to date. More unanticipated ability to move a three figure children’s portrait by Ammi Phillips. Estimated at $60,000 to $80,000 it failed to interest a buyer at even $30,000. Works by tonalist painter Bruce Crane all sold, but towards the low end of the estimates or below.

On the bright side a work by Thomas Moran went above the high estimate and fetched $110,000. Thomas Doughty also hammered well above estimate at $24,000 as did a work by Wolf Kahn, which hammered at $14,000.

As the auctioneer noted, everything that didn’t sell is an after-the-fact opportunity. Indeed that’s not a bad environment to present a seller with an option they’d thought they were without.

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