Renowned for its art institutions and rich multicultural heritage, Philadelphia will soon add another very colorful feather to its cap. Material Culture, the city’s popular 60,000-sq.-ft. showplace for antiques, textiles and handcrafted decorative arts, will introduce its new auction division on May 5, 2012 with a 500-lot sale titled “New World Orders.” All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through LiveAuctioneers.
Material Culture’s wealth of experience and loyal following of customers, advisors and associates worldwide set the stage for the company’s entry into the auction arena, said founder/owner George Jevremovic.
“Our relationships with collectors and other friends in the business have been built on a basis of mutual trust over 30-plus years. I’ve been reaching out to them over the past two years, and our May auction debut is a tribute to those people and connections,” said Jevremovic.
No matter how broad a descriptive brush one uses, it is a formidable challenge to categorize the mix of artworks in the May 5 sale. Lot after lot, the word “unique” springs to mind, whether it’s a mystical 12th-century carved marble relief from northern India or a brilliantly-hued Felipe Jesus Consalvos cigar-band artwork.
Material Culture has always been thought of as something of an eclectic wonderland for decorators and homeowners seeking offbeat artworks and one-of-a-kind statement pieces.
“Our aesthetic knows no boundaries – it runs from Asian antiquities to classic Nakashima furniture to outside-the-box creations by self-taught artists,” said Jevremovic. “Now we have the opportunity to share our discoveries with the world via the auction route.”
A survey of the array of international treasures chosen for Material Culture’s auction premiere starts with the predicted top lot: an original 19th-century Samuel Anderson Robb cigar store Indian. For many decades, the masterfully hand-carved figure greeted visitors entering Reese’s Antiques on Pine Street in Philadelphia. Appearing to have all-original paint, the 77-inch-tall statue has been in the same owner’s hands since the 1940s and has never before been offered for sale. An American folk art classic, it is entered in the May 5 auction with a $40,000-$60,000 estimate.
Cuban-American artist Felipe Jesus Consalvos (Cuban-American, 1891 – circa 1960) was a cigar roller whose natural talent as an artist was not widely known until after his death. Consalvos presciently created modernist collages that incorporate cigar bands and cigar-box paper as well as photographs, postage stamps and magazine images. His mixed-media depiction titled Guitar – one of several Consalvos artworks in the sale – could make $6,000-$8,000.
Contemporary Chinese painter Guo Runwen’s early oil on canvas titled Standing Nude with Back View was purchased directly from the artist in 1988 at his studio in Guangzhou, China. Fresh from a Delaware collection, the 31½- by 21½-inch artwork is estimated at $30,000-$40,000. Another 20th-century Chinese painting, Fan Zeng’s (b. 1955-) ink and color on paper titled Zhong Kui Shen Wei, is signed and bears two seals. In vertical format measuring 53 by 26 inches, it carries an estimate of $6,000-$8,000.
There are many early Asian works scheduled to cross the auction block, including a dimensionally carved 12th-century marble relief from Jain in northern India. Featuring deities, elephants and other animals in a temple setting, it measures 30½ by 10 inches and is 7 inches deep. Estimate: $4,000-$6,000. Also to be offered is a finely carved 18th-century Chinese ivory vase estimated at $4,000-$6,000.
The Dream of the Abiku Child by acclaimed African artist Prince Twins Seven-Seven (Nigerian, 1944-2011) is a stunning mélange of fantasy and color. The 40- by 27-inch artwork was created in ink, watercolor and oil on brown wrapping paper and glued to plywood. The human subject, wearing intricately patterned clothing adorned with stars, seems to leap from the setting, which also features multiple fish and a dot pattern similar to that seen in Australian aboriginal paintings. One of three works in the auction by Prince Twins Seven-Seven, it is estimated at $4,000-$6,000.
Furniture lots cross a wide spectrum of styles. A late-19th-century Syrian mirrored cabinet, crafted of walnut with mother-of-pearl and bone inlay, comes from a collection of antique Damascus furniture in the auction. The cabinet is expected to bring $8,000-$12,000. Dating from the Art Deco period, a pair of perennially stylish Bauhaus tubular steel and leather lounge chairs will be offered with a $2,000-$4,000 estimate.
Idaho-born artist James Charles Castle (American, 1899-1977) was born profoundly deaf, and it is not known to what extent he could read, write or use sign language, but he had an innate talent for creating art from found objects of humblest origin. Today, Castle’s works are found in many institutions’ collections. In 2008-2009, the Philadelphia Museum of Art organized a Castle exhibition that toured nationally. Material Culture’s May 5 auction features a James Castle drawing on paper titled Labor Day. It comes with provenance from the J Crist Gallery in Boise and could realize $4,000-$6,000.
Material Culture’s Saturday, May 5 inaugural live auction will commence at 11 am. Eastern Time. Preview: April 22-May 4, 10 am.-6 pm. daily. The gallery is located at 4700 Wissahickon Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19144. All forms of bidding will be available, including phone, absentee or Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers. For additional information on any lot in the sale, email expert[.]materialculture.com or call 215-849-8030. Visit the company online.
Material Culture (materialculture.com) will host an inaugural auction party and special exhibition preview from 6-10 pm. on Saturday, April 28. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served and there will be live music. RSVP at info[.]materialculture.com or call