Austin Auction Gallery chalked up a solid $260,000 total with its April 18, 2010 Important Spring Estates Auction, led by a keenly pursued selection of Mid-century dining room furniture designed by Paul Evans (American, 1931-1987).
The 10-piece sculpted-bronze dining suite consisted of a large ‘Stalagmite’ glass-top table, eight chairs upholstered in purple micro-suede, and a long, sculpted-bronze server set with two slate slabs. The consignor had purchased the suite in 1970, from the Chicago showroom of Directional Furniture, for whom Evans designed.
The Evans set was offered in three lots with a total estimate of $17,000-$23,000, but bidders knew an opportunity when they saw one and pushed the aggregate price to $59,225. The table made $10,925, while the coveted complete set of chairs soared to $29,900. Completing the ensemble, the sideboard closed at $18,400. All prices quoted in this report are inclusive of 15% buyer’s premium.
“We had nine or ten phone bidders, from all over the country, who were interested in the Paul Evans set,” said Austin Auction associate Chris Featherston, “but amazingly, it all went to a buyer from our own hometown here in Texas. One of the phone bidders, who was from New York, was surprised that he had been outbid by someone from Austin.”
An 18th-century, Louis XV-style marble-top carved console from the same estate that produced the Paul Evans furniture also met with success in the sale. Heavy phone participation boosted its closing price to $8,625.
The fine-art section of the sale included a special collection of eight artworks by John Strevens (British, 1902-1990). Strevens exhibited regularly at the British Royal Academy, Royal Society of British Arts, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, and the Paris Salon.
“The owner of the paintings had her portrait painted by Strevens and bought additional works by the artist,” Featherston explained. “The eight paintings sold for a total of $26,996, with individual prices ranging from $1,150 to $5,463.”
A category that garnered considerable interest was Asian art. “Since we have been online with our sales, we have gained quite a few buyers out of China,” said Featherston. “Last year many of those buyers were conspicuously absent from our sales. This year the Chinese buyers were back in force, especially for the red coral pieces in the sale.”
Featherston explained that because of over-harvesting and polluted ocean waters, raw red coral has become a scarce commodity. “Even 20th-century pieces like some that we auctioned attracted a lot of attention,” he said.
A group of four small red coral snuff bottles representing a woman, an urn with a relief image of a deer, and two eggplant forms with beetles in relief sold for $1,725 (estimate $200-$400); while a diminutive (4¼-inch-tall) red coral figure on an elephant made $1,265 (estimate $300-$500). Yet another example of Asian art that surpassed estimate was the 2½-inch-tall hornbill snuff bottle with dipper that garnered $1,725 against expectations of $200-$400.
Fashionistas swarmed to bid on the 13 lots of designer clothing by such notable names as Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass and Richilene New York. In total, the wardrobe of classics earned $7,619.
Featherston said he was disappointed that the sale’s star lot – an opal, diamond and pearl necklace that reputedly belonged to America’s first interior designer, Elsie de Wolfe – did not find a new owner. “The necklace didn’t sell, but it made a lot of people aware of us and the level of quality we offer in our sales,” said Featherston.
Austin Auction Gallery (austinauction.com) will hold its next cataloged Estates Auction on May 22-23.