With Material Culture’s Inaugural Auctions, the same kind of unique items of exceptional artistry and craft that have formed the backbone of the company for years have launched it boldly into the international auction market. The Inaugural Sale, “New World Orders,” on May 5, and the Inaugural Specialty Sale, “Antique Carpets, Textiles and Ethnographic Arts,” on May 26, grossed approximately $750,000, with all prices including the buyers’ premium. Notably, both auctions saw over 90% of the lots sold. The sales garnered international interest, attracting bidders from 38 and 29 different countries, respectively. Domestic interest was also high, demonstrating a local desire for exotic artifacts, bridging continents through shared appreciation of art of all origins.
The May 5 Auction, “New World Orders,” provided an eclectic mix of antiques, collectables and decorative arts, a collection that sought to transcend the borders of the art world along with those of the countries represented. The top lot, an original nineteenth-century Cigar Store Indian, attributed to Samuel Anderson Robb (1851-1928) sold for $35,400. A finely carved marble relief from northern India, dating all the way back to the 12th century, achieved $6,600, while a Russian Icon with a silver oklad far surpassed its estimate of $800 – $1,200 by fetching $6,800. A long walnut coffee table by American woodworker George Nakashima (1905-1990) sold for $6,300.
All of these items typify the varied array of art available, though perhaps none embodied the spirit of the auction so well as those works by self-taught and folk artists such as Felipe Jesus Consalvos (1891-c.1960) and Prince Twins Seven-Seven (1944-2011). Consalvos’ “Guitar,” a guitar decorated in the tradition of cigar band collage, sold for $7,300. Nigerian artist Prince Twins Seven-Seven, who spent time at Material Culture as artist-in-residence, also saw strong bidding for his painting Dream of the Abiku Child, which ended up fetching $7,300.
“Antique Carpets, Textiles and Ethnographic Arts” represented a more focused collection for Material Culture’s first specialty sale on May 26. The auction was led by a Ming Dynasty carved gilt Buddha from the 16th century, originally expected to sell for $4,000-$5,000, but which ended up commanding $17,000. Tibetan artifacts were particularly well represented at auction, marked by many pieces from Bill Liske’s Collection of Antique Tibetan Textiles, Carpets and Artifacts. An exceptional Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) Tibetan Thangka, in outstanding condition for its age, was well sought-after and ended up selling for $4,800. Also from Liske’s collection, a rare cut loop Tibetan saddle rug sporting the traditional ‘frog’s foot’ design in fine embroidery, was sold for $3,600.
Other highlights of the sale include a spectacular 18th century Ottoman silk embroidery in excellent condition, which achieved $12,000. The bidding war on a Persian Tebriz carpet from circa 1900 drove its price to $14,600, well over its estimated $4,000 to $6,000 sale price. Many other textiles and artifacts from Turkey, Greece, the Caucasus, Serbia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, China, Burkina Faso, Panama, Peru and of Native American origin also fetched more than their highest estimated value.
Functions held the week before each auction ushered the sales in, and also served to open the gallery exhibitions of the items up for auction. An inaugural party with live music and food was held on April 28, while Bill Liske came to discuss his collection at a reception on May 19. Future auction items will also be on view in Material Culture’s naturally-lit gallery space leading up to the sale date; during exhibitions, the gallery is open to the public 10 AM-6 PM, seven days a week. Material Culture’s next auction, the June Estates Auction, will be held on June 30, 2012.