Archive | April, 2012

Vanity Fair Takes on Knoedler

24 Apr




In the May issue, Vanity Fair reports on “The Knoedler Gallery Forgery Scandals and Shuttering“.  It’s an insightful article by Michael Shnayerson on Ann Freedman and the scandal involving the “David Herbert Collection” treasure trove, including works by Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still, Franz Kline, and Jackson Pollock,  now thought to be complete fakes. 

After 165 years, the Knoedler Gallery shut its doors last November amid allegations it sold forgeries, though Knoedler has said that the closing was a business decision unrelated to the lawsuits that have been filed against them.  Knoedler, at 19 East 70th Street, had been rattled by a series of changes over the past four years, including the recession in 2008.  In October 2009, Ann Freedman, the gallery’s president and an employee of 31 years, resigned.  Two months later, the gallery put the landmark Italian Renaissance-style town house that it has occupied for the past 41 years on sale for $59.9 million.  In February 2011, the building was sold for $31 million.  In November 2011, the gallery announced it was closing.

Once thought to be one of the most respected galleries of fine art, there is a big cloud hanging over Knoedler’s head.  When I saw old Knoedler gallery labels on the back of paintings, I got excited.  I knew that they handled the best and that the work was authentic almost without question.  Now, I need to re-think.  Knowing now that it’s very likely that Knoedler sold forgeries at times, I cannot make the assumption that works with a Knoedler label must be right.   

Nobody’s perfect.  Galleries and auction houses can make mistakes.  But the best companies will correct their mistakes immediately….reputation saved.  It’s more difficult though, when your mistakes are worth tens of millions.  That’s alot money to refund at a moment’s notice.  It will be interesting to see how the court cases proceed over the next few years.


“Munch” Madness

17 Apr

I’m so excited about Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” coming up for auction at Sotheby’s New York in May.  It’s going to be an amazing event.

Before it heads to auction in New York, the last version of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” in private hands is currently on view at Sotheby’s London, where it has attracted an unheard-of 5,200 visitors in four days.  Munch executed four versions of his most famous work.  The other three are currently in museums.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for collectors with very deep pockets.  Word-of-mouth says that the painting is expected to sell upwards of $80 million.

So tight was the security that bags were searched at the door, and visitors had to undergo body and screen searches watched constantly by security guards before entering a darkened room where the icon, protected by layers of invisible glass, was stage-lit with almost ecclesiastical reverence.  No wonder; two other versions of the painting have been stolen from Norwegian museums in recent years.


Property from the Olsen Collection
Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
The Scream
Signed E. Munch and dated 1895 (lower left)
Pastel on board in the original frame
32 x 23-1/4 inches
Executed in 1895.
Estimate upon Request

Fine Silver & Vertu Recap

12 Apr

The Fine Silver & Vertu Auction was a big success yesterday.  Congratulations to Tim Rigdon, Karen Rigdon, and Anne Taylor Tipton for a job well done on a marathon sale in Dallas.  The sale totaled just over $1 million, which is quite strong for a dedicated sale to silver flatware, hollowware, and small items.

633 of 724 lots sold
87% by value
87% by lot


The top lot of the sale was the monumental G.J. Dennis silver caviar server – the epitome of modern luxury – created in London in 2002, which sold for $68,500 (including buyer’s premium).  What a stunning piece to anyone’s party.



Other highlights include:

The Peter Muller-Munk Studio, New York, New York, circa 1930
Sold for $31,250




Gorham Manufacturing Co., Providence, Rhode Island, 1967
Sold for $30,000


Gorham Manufacturing Co., Providence, Rhode Island, 1899
Sold for $22,500




Overall, we are thrilled with the sale.  Strong prices were set for European as well as American silver.  The Chinese Export and silver overlaid glass pieces sold very well, too.  The market is strong for unusual and unique pieces and for designer-driven pieces.  “Everyday” plain silver items are sluggish over the melt value.

Silver Sale Today

11 Apr

All eyes are on the caviar server today….will it sell?  Fingers crossed!




G.J. Dennis Gold and Silversmith, London, England, 2002
Marks: (lion passant), (leopard’s head), (jubilee mark), EE, C, 925
33-1/2 inches long (85.1 cm)
1196 troy ounces

The monumental caviar server on an oval wooden base, stylized waves and shells to the body, liner with two rings supports frame for five glass caviar receptacles, cast sturgeon to the removable lid. Originally commissioned by the Silver Fund, London, England.

Estimate: $70,000 – $100,000.

SOLD!!! $68,500 including buyer’s premium.

In Memoriam: Thomas Kincade

10 Apr

Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light” passed away on Friday at the age of 54.  The NY Times reports he died of natural causes at his home in Los Gatos, California.

Excerpt from NY Times:
Though often disdained by the fine art establishment, Mr. Kinkade built a decorative art empire by creating sentimental paintings that were, for the most part, relatively inexpensive and resonated with the desires of homeowners who did not ordinarily buy art. He sold his work directly, through his own franchise galleries or on cable television home shopping networks, and eventually online.

Much of his work reflected Christian themes or visions of a traditional, rustic America residing in comforting solitude. The paintings — of homey cottages and rural churches and rivers flowing gently through brilliant foliage — rarely included people, which allowed the owners to project themselves into the scenes.

Mr. Kinkade referred to himself as the “painter of light,” usually with a trademark symbol, for naturalistic scenes with highlights that appeared to glow. Often his canvases were mass-produced prints to which he added small, brightly toned details. He made no apologies for commercializing the art field, comparing himself to million-sellers in, say, music and literature.

For the complete obituary, click HERE.

Though the Thomas Kincade name is often accompanied by a series of groans around the fine art world, he was a marketing genius.  He created a demand for his works among the masses and charged them thousands of dollars for prints with additional “highlights” in applied paint.  His works inspired books, made-for-television movies, and dozens of collectibles (i.e. Bradford Exchange plates, figurines, and snow globes). 

It will be interesting to see what happens to the values of these items now that he has passed.  I think the very first original paintings will hold value – those pieces painted entirely by his hand.  His prints and collectible items inspired by his prints will not retain their retail value, as the current supply of these works will likely outweigh the future demand.

Word of the Day: Sautoir

5 Apr

My new favorite word these days is sautoir – pronounced [soh-twahr].  The sound of this French word is just so elegant that it makes me feel the tiniest bit of elegant too.

A sautoir is a long necklace (longer than opera-length), often with an ornament (a tassel or pendant) at the end.  It could also be a ribbon, chain, scarf, or the like, tied around the neck in such a manner that the ends cross over each other.

Sautoirs were common during the Edwardian era – King Edward VII reigned 1901-1910 – and were originally developed in imitation of military braids or chains.  They are frequently looped around the neck and worn scarflike over one shoulder or down the back.  Sautoirs continued in popularity through the 1920s, as fashionable flappers often wore pieces to accentuate their low-cut evening gowns.

In the upcoming Fine Jewelry auction on April 30 in New York, Heritage has a lovely Edwardian sautoir for sale.  The long necklace with a  beautiful platinum and diamond pendant and seed pearl tassel would be a stunning addition to any little black dress.

Edwardian Diamond, Seed Pearl, Enamel, Platinum, Gold Sautoir, French
The woven seed pearl necklace features openwork platinum sections, enhanced by European and rose-cut diamonds, suspending a detachable pendant, accented by European and rose-cut diamonds, completed by a seed pearl tassel having a rose-cut diamond and enameled platinum cap. Total diamond weight is approximately 4.20 carats. French hallmarks. Gross weight is 62.50 grams.

Property of a Beverly Hills Collector
Estimate: $15,000 – $20,000

UPDATE:  Sold for $15,000, including buyer’s premium.

Ivory Sales Banned in California

4 Apr

In the April issue of the Maine Antique Digest, David Hewett reports on the recent seizures of ivory consignments at California auctions.

In the past, it’s been ok to buy/sell ivory on the open marketplace, as long as it was antique, i.e. over 100 years.  But recent developments in the state of California have seen all ivory pieces on the marketplace (modern and antique) being seized by Fish and Wildlife.

Rosie DeStories, co-owner of Fairfield Auction in Monroe, Connecticut, sent an email in February to those in the trade as a warning: “The State of California Department of Fish and Game is ACTIVELY raiding auction houses and antique shows, confiscating ivory. It is now illegal to sell or have the intent to sell ANY IVORY within the State of California or to sell it to any bidders within the State of California REGARDLESS OF THE AGE of the ivory. The fine is a minimum of $1000 per violation and a maximum up to $5000 per violation.”

Don’t forget – all ivory is ALL ivory, no matter the age or the size of the piece.  Thus, tiny ivory insulators on sterling silver coffee pots, antique ivory piano keys, and ivory-inlaid furniture may be seized, as well as Asian and Continental ivory carvings.  The ivory and silver gilt bon bon scoop pictured here dates to circa 1895.  It would now be illegal to sell this piece in California, or for a California resident to buy it. 

Ridiculous, right?  But California law enforcement is hoping this crackdown will help stem the mass murder of elephants in Africa today.  Whether it works or not, remains to be seen.  Personally, I don’t see how this helps anyone but the state of California’s coffers….