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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Clarke Auction Defies Market, Shatters Record, 92% of Lots Sold

Despite initially strong buzz leading up to the sale, Ronan Clarke was nervous as he stepped to the podium Monday evening to open his Fifth Annual Fine Art Auction October 27th. The day found the stock market swinging wildly again and several bidders had just telephoned to announce they were canceling their bids. The major auction houses were reporting weak art sales with high percentages of unsold works and multimillion dollar losses. While some in the house congratulated Clarke on the breadth and depth of his inventory, and others wished him luck, there were those who openly wanted a fire sale.

“I’ve never had a stronger catalog, but the timing was never worse, not even after 9/11″, admitted Clarke.

Three and a half hours later, Clarke brought the gavel down on his last lot, having set the auction gross record for his own ten-year old business while shattering the auction record for African-American artist Beauford Delaney. Clarke Auction had previously set the art auction record for Joseph Delaney, Beauford’s younger brother.

African-American Art Record
Monday’s historic painting, estimated at $30,000-50,000, was a 48″ by 37” oil dated 1950 of an abstracted city street with Delaney’s heavy swirling impasto and spiritual yellows. Two Manhattan auction houses had shared the auction record of $104,500 for a Delaney oil, now held by Clarke Auction at $176,250, a differential even more striking considering Clarke’s lower buyer’s premium.

The same estate also provided a Delaney charcoal portrait of a black woman wearing a cloche, believed to be the first work to arrive at auction dating from Beauford Delaney’s 1929 arrival in Harlem. That work, estimated at $3000-5000, was in retrospect a relative bargain at $6462.

An Orientalist oil by the Italian Fabio Fabbi, estimated at $40,000-60,000 and also completely fresh-to-market after 70 years in a Bronxville home, sold to a telephone bidder in the Middle East for $70,500.

Ashcan and WPA era Art
A Greenwich resident consigned her father’s 1940’s collection of New York Ashcan prints with a rare Martin Lewis drypoint of an evening market, estimated at $10,000-15,000, realising $22,325. A box lot of loose Claire Mairs prints sold for $5,640. A classic Reginald Marsh girl on carousel realized $3760 from an in-house bidder. A pleasant surprise for the same consignor was a Jacques Zucker oil on board, conservatively estimated at $600-900, selling to the galley for $6,462.

Other highlights
European buyers remained active as usual for Clarke. Spanish buyers secured a very large Cristobal Toral for $18,800 as well as a very small Jose Guerrero for $11,162. A small pen and ink sketch found in an estate was determined to be an original study by Alexander Calder for a large mobile in Detroit and sold for $2350. An apparently unsigned papier mache sculpture of Stalin, attributed to Komar and Melamid, was estimated at $300-500 and sold to a Russian buyer for $1762. Three small Gabriel Spat oils, estimated collectively at $1400-$2100, realized $8700.

As in any sale, there were bargains. An estate-stamped Mary Cassatt drawing sold for $5287 and a grouping of Leon Dolice Manhattan pastels sold within estimates, but probably should have generated more interest from Ashcan buyers. A large and early Larry Rivers, similar to works recently featured at an East Hampton exhibition, was perhaps too provocative for the market and sold for only $39,950.

Ron Clarke commented “after a slow start, there was strong competition for most lots with two-thirds selling within or above estimates. He concluded, “as usual, our exceptional art attracted aggressive bidders and we continue to find international buyers. Contrary to the stories about a weakening art market, Clarke Auction had our best auction in ten years.”.

Clarke’s Sixth Annual Fine Art Auction will be held in May 2009. Clarke is always looking for fresh-to-market fine art, particularly African-American and New York-related, for purchase or consignment.