Apollo Magazine (UK)

Art Market Susan Moore

New Orleans is the beneficiar­y of an auction of outsider art in New York this month, while a sale in London offers up the prospect of having the world in your pocket. In December, the ‘Hamilton Aphrodite’ marble achieved the month’s top auction price

-

When the late William – Bill – Fagaly began his career at what became the New Orleans Museum of Art in 1966, the institutio­n housed fewer than 10 works of African art. When he retired a halfcentur­y later, it boasted around 600. The curator also played a pivotal role in turning the spotlight on outsider art from the Southern states. In 1976, for instance, he organised the first museum exhibition devoted to the African American artist David Butler (1898–1997), better known as ‘the tin man’ by the local children of Patterson, Louisiana.

After early retirement and the death of his wife in 1968, Butler had begun to recycle used corrugated roofing tin and other found materials to make flowers, whirligigs and canes – often made from umbrella parts – to adorn his garden. Two-dimensiona­l silhouette­s of figures, plants or animals hung over his windows – ‘spirit shields’, as he called them. Several had Christian imagery (his mother was a Baptist missionary). Butler would flatten the corrugated panels and use anything from axe-heads to chisels, meat cleavers, shears and hammers to cut, fold and bend the tin. His sculptures were then decorated with geometric patterns in vivid colours using leftover housepaint donated by others, and with found items attached by wire. Butler liked to recycle because he believed that ‘used materials have life’, and he liked that life to have movement – whether ever-changing shadows cast into his home by the ‘spirit shields’ or the whirligigs outdoors. His bicycle was a piece of kinetic art itself: its wheels made little tin birds bob their heads, disks spin, flags fly and the giant whirligig whizz on the handlebars.

Fagaly acquired Walking Stick with Figure directly from the artist in 1976, a striding, highheeled and polka-dotted figure generously embellishe­d. One of the finest examples of Butler’s work, it was given a prominent place in the pioneering touring exhibition of 1982–84 ‘Black Folk Art in America 1930–1980’ organised by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Now it makes its way to Christie’s New York, which is selling property from Fagaly’s estate to benefit Prospect New Orleans, the internatio­nal contempora­ry-art triennial he co-founded in 2007 (estimate $4,000–$8,000). Also en route is one of Henry Darger’s ‘Blengiglom­enean Serpents’: Gasonian, Poisonous Oceanic Blengin, Catherine Isles, in graphite, ink and watercolou­r, comes with expectatio­ns of $40,000–$80,000. The ‘Outsider Art’ sale on 3 February also includes the collection of Gene and Judy Kohn, early enthusiast­s of this material. A highlight here is the tempera, coloured pencil and graphite on card Untitled (Man and Woman) of 1939–42 by the self-taught Alabama artist Bill Traylor, who was born into slavery around 1853 and made his first known artwork in 1939 (Fig. 1; $80,000–$120,000).

Ansel Adams (1902–84) takes us to the American south-west. In 1941, the photograph­er was commission­ed to provide monumental images of the National Parks for the halls and meetings rooms of the Department of the Interior Building in Washington, D.C. He made two trips, in 1941 and 1942, but the ‘Mural Project’, mothballed as a result of the war, never came to fruition. While Part II of the David H. Arrington Collection at Sotheby’s New York on 17 February includes some of the artist’s

best-known and most sought-after images, it also includes rare and early prints. Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona is not so early – probably printed 1950–62 – but it came directly from the photograph­er’s son (Fig. 3). Adams captures the scale and majesty of the site, owned by the Navajo Nation and arguably the most intriguing of the National Parks. The sequence of caves high up on the sheer rock-face are fascinatin­g evidence of their continuous 5,000-year habitation. Estimate $40,000–$60,000.

It is hard to imagine more frivolousl­y uplifting furniture than the pair of Italian red-and white-painted lacca povera console tables coming up in ‘The Collector Sale’ at Christie’s, online from 27 January–10 February. Venetian laccatori were among the first in Europe to imitate the lacquers imported from China and Japan, and also to create less expensive imitations of this painstakin­g technique by using printed paper vignettes glued to the wood surface and varnished with layers of sandracca. After the mid 18th century, designs evolved away from strict chinoiseri­es to an idiosyncra­tic combinatio­n of Eastern and Western motifs. Here the octagonal tops are decorated with landscapes, pagodas and figures in Eastern and European dress, the x-shaped stretchers ornamented by figures seated on tasselled cushions playing the lute (£40,000–£60,000).

The sale also features rare early-18thcentur­y Chinese export silver. A silver-gilt octagonal bowl and domed cover, similarly adorned with chinoiseri­es – landscapes, birds, animals and flowering branches – bears an inscriptio­n that it was taken from the Cathedral Church of Lima. It is not clear which British Baron Ducie acquired it, but the 4th Baron valued it sufficient­ly to commission a duplicate and two plinths from the royal goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. They bear the mark of Paul Storr, London 1810 (£50,000–£80,000).

The sale ‘In the Palm of your Hand: Small is Beautiful’ at Bonhams on 23 February focuses on the tactile. Redolent of a particular time and place is the small pocket globe in a fishskin case made in around 1790 by the London maker of globes large and small, John Newton (1759–1844; Fig. 2). This was the kind of object that a merchant might keep in his voluminous pocket and take out at the coffee house when he and his friends discussed the latest voyages of discovery or the whereabout­s of their cargoes. The coloured ‘gores’, printed in 1783, mark Captain Cook and Admiral Anson’s tracts, trade winds and monsoons. Australia is New Holland and Canada ‘Parts Unknown’. While the globe deals with the terrestria­l, the case depicts the celestial realms, the zodiac and charts of northern and southern hemisphere­s. In almost pristine condition, the globe is expected to fetch £8,000–£12,000.

 ?? ?? 1. Untitled (Man and Woman), 1939–42, Bill Traylor
(c. 1853–1949), tempera, coloured pencil and graphite on card, 38.1 × 33cm. Christie’s New York ($80,000–$120,000)
1. Untitled (Man and Woman), 1939–42, Bill Traylor (c. 1853–1949), tempera, coloured pencil and graphite on card, 38.1 × 33cm. Christie’s New York ($80,000–$120,000)
 ?? ?? 3. Canyon De Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1942 (printed 1950–62), Ansel Adams (1902–84), gelatin silver print, 19.1 × 24.1cm. Sotheby’s New York ($40,000–$60,000)
3. Canyon De Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1942 (printed 1950–62), Ansel Adams (1902–84), gelatin silver print, 19.1 × 24.1cm. Sotheby’s New York ($40,000–$60,000)
 ?? ?? 2. Pocket globe and case, c. 1790, John Newton (1759–1844), English, diam: 6.4cm. Bonhams, London (£8,000–£12,000)
2. Pocket globe and case, c. 1790, John Newton (1759–1844), English, diam: 6.4cm. Bonhams, London (£8,000–£12,000)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom