Strong prices for modernist works drive Bonhams’ American art sale to over $2 million
When the tightly curated May 23 sale of American art began at Bonhams in Newyork City, the strength of the auction was felt immediately.the first two lots, by Charles Green Shaw, struck a bidding frenzy.the initial painting, titled Untitled (Abstract on White), soared to more than six times its high estimate of $10,000 to see $68,750.The second work, Untitled (Atomic Flight), sparked even more interest when it sold for $93,750 against a presale estimate of $15,000 to $25,000. It became a new auction record for the artist. “The sale did really well as a whole, especially if you look at the numbers against the presale expectations. It exceeded expectations, sell-through rates were really strong and there was great bidding activity,” says Jennifer Jacobsen, Bonhams’ director of American art. “it was mostly a modernist sale and that segment did really well, but other categories represented all saw strength.”
John Marin’s Sea in Red (Version II) (est. $100/150,000) was the day’s top lot, yielding $206,250. The painting was a later work for
the artist and highlighted his more mature style with thick and thin brushstrokes that evoke movement and energy. The second highest seller of the day was the cover lot for the sale, Charles Sheeler’s Architectural Cadences (est. $70/100,000), which achieved $162,500. In discussing the Sheeler, Jacobsen says, “this one in particular was really a great reflection of Sheeler’s mature style with the architecture and the flattening of the spaces and his use of overlapping and transparency. It was executed in his crisp, precise style for which some collectors are especially keen.” Another painting by the artist, in a very different style than the architectural work, landed in the top 10. Still Life (est. $60/80,000), depicting a ewer, fruit and a glass, sold for $71,250. Jacobsen adds that there has been “good interest on the market over the past few years” for works by Sheeler. A number of other pieces in the sale came in well above estimate. A whimsical stage performer painting by Everett Shinn titled Eccentric Dancer (est. $40/60,000) more than doubled its low estimate at $87,500.A rare Florida landscape by Thomas Moran titled Beach Scene at Fort George Island, Florida achieved $162,500 over a presale estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. Elie Nadelman’s bronze Head of a Man in a Top Hat (est. $60/80,000) sold for $137,500.
“I think our numbers are incredibly strong for our market in recent years,” says Jacobsen, adding that the auction also had notable turnout for first-time buyers. “Twenty-six percent of the sales total was purchased by new buyers. It’s a great indicator of the energy of the market.”
Top: John Marin (1870-1953), Sea inRed (Version II), 1948. Oil on canvas,22 x 28 in., signed and dated lower right: ‘Marin 48’. Estimate: $100/150,000 SOLD: $206,250Left: Charles Sheeler (1883-1965), Architectural Cadences, 1954. Gouache and pencil on paper laid down on paper, 6¼ x 91/8 in. (image), 9¾ x 12 in. (sheet), signed dated and inscribed in lower margin: ‘To Joan + Fred Wight with deep appreciation. Charles Sheeler 1954’. Estimate: $70/100,000 SOLD: $162,500
Thomas Moran (1837-1926), Beach Scene in Fort George Island, Florida, ca. 1878. Oil on panel, 9 x 12 in., signed with conjoined initials lower left: ‘Tmoran’. Estimate: $25/35,000 SOLD: $162,500
Everett Shinn (1876-1953), Eccentric Dancer, 1930. Pastel, charcoal and conté crayon on paperboard, 16¼ x 143/8 in., signed and dated lower right: ‘Everett Shinn / 1930’. Estimate: $40/60,000 SOLD: $87,500