This unusual carved and painted trade sign was found in an abandoned building in Newark, New Jersey. It appears to be an address, "41144," formed by the carved and painted black musicians and dancers. "Good Policy to Trade at the Hub" is written below the address. It measures 31" x 59" x 3". One of the many surprises of this auction, the sign reached $18,400, more than tripling the high estimate. Steiner photo.
Trail Riders by William Hawkins (1895-1990), 1982, enamel on masonite, 48" x 60", signed and titled with the artist's birth date, ex-Fleisher Ollman Gallery, sold for $80,500 (est. $20,000/30,000).
Four tobacconist figures were offered. A finely detailed Indian princess from the Viener collection opened at $12,000 and quickly moved to the winning bid of $19,550 (est. $15,000/20,000). It was dated as late 1800's and measured 50" x 16" x 11Â½". Not shown, two examples from the Rabkin collection, a tall polychromed buckskin-clad male and a nude Indian princess, brought $1380 and $431.25, respectively. The Rabkin lots were sold to benefit the folk art department of Atlanta's High Museum of Art.
Caballero by Martin Ramirez (1895-1963) graced the front cover of the auction catalog, which may have prompted the winning bid of $50,600 (est. $35,000/ 45,000). It is graphite on joined paper, 30" x 24" (sight size), and ex-Phyllis Kind Gallery.
Sister Gertrude Morgan (1900-1980) paintings found mixed results. Her 1970's Light with Self-Portrait (shown), paint with watercolor and ink on paper, 8" x 9", more than doubled expectations at $12,650. Morgan's unsigned Revelation, with sufficient script in the image to be authenticated, came up very short at $3335.
Slotin Folk Art, Buford, Georgia
by Marty Steiner
Photos courtesy Slotin Folk Art
Spring was well beyond balmy across the country. The record-setting hot spring was reflected, and perhaps surpassed, by the attitude at the Slotin spring "Masterpiece" sale in Buford, Georgia, on April 21 and 22.
Bidders came to enjoy the community of American folk art collectors. Bidders on site came from 17 states. "This is such a strong statement of how supportive they are of these auctions," stated Amy Slotin. Even more important, they came to bid and buy.
As usual, however, much of the sale sold to off-site bidders. With 116 phone bidders, nearly as many absentee/left bids, and over 1000 on-line bidders on Saturday and 800 on Sunday, only about half of the lots were won by on-site bidders.
The main group of pottery, 127 lots, started off the sale. Examples by more than 50 makers included standard-bearers such as Lanier Meaders, Burlon B. Craig, Chester Hewell, Charles Lisk, Marie Rogers, and Billy Ray Hussey. Prices ranged from $28.75 (includes buyer's premium) for a signed "Owens" green-glazed coffee mug to $2760 for a Lanier Meaders devil face jug with rock teeth. A number of stacker jugs stencil-marked for distiller R.M. Rose, Atlanta, seemed below market.
It would be a dozen lots into the sale before the on-site bidders seemed to notice that the sale had begun. A couple of Carl Block, Flatland Pottery jugs and Jim Bozeman 1990's Edgefield-inspired pictorial jugs seemed to break up the in-house reunion atmosphere and bring bidders to their seats, as phone and Internet bidders were prevailing.
During the sale of pottery lots, the seasoned Slotin crowd noticed a new bidder in their midst. Attending his first-ever folk art auction, he "had the eye," bidding and winning a selection of pots by such well-regarded makers as Chester, Matthew, and Grace Nell Hewell, Marie Rogers, Reggie Meaders, B.B. Craig, and others. His attendance had been sparked by receiving a Slotin catalog. Initially planning to bid on line or by phone, he made a last-minute decision to attend. With a background in the fine arts, he is intrigued with the character of the folk and Outsider artists.
Recent Slotin sales have included a small group of circus, carnival, and sideshow artifacts. Seven banners and groups of knockdown dolls and shooting targets brought strong phone bidding. These artifacts are true Americana.
Banners frequently were created by itinerant circus workers to promote traffic to their rides or acts. Sometimes they were the work of professional and well-known banner artists. Today, these banners have been replaced with flat-screen projections, on-line animation, and other high-tech media. As in every other specialty there are known masters.
A large "Champion Sword Swallower" banner attributed to master banner artist Neiman Eisman drew strong phone bidding before selling for $4715. A location-specific (Urbana, Ohio) sideshow admission banner (10Â¢) drew a crowd of bidders and sold for $690 on line. Other banners ranged from $287.50 to $1955. Most sold on line. Amy Slotin observed, "These circus and carnival lots have a small but very intense following. We are always surprised at the amount of activity!"
Perhaps the rarest show-related lots in this sale flew under the radar. Two printer's woodblocks for show posters from Calhoun Print Co., one for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and another for J.D. Rockwell's Pavilion Theatre, sold for $1150 and $316.25, respectively. These blocks date from the early 20th century.
In similar fashion, metal shooting targets were grouped together. Prices ranged from $345 for a group of six smokers' pipes with considerable pitting and use to $1250 for a group of four running animals.
The "most viewed" lot of the on-line catalog brought giggles and rolled eyes among the in-house crowd. Edgar Tolson's Original Sin, a carved and painted wood Adam and Eve (in action), with the ever-present serpent, sold for $10,925. It is one of two known examples; the other resides in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
As always, there were many Howard Finster lots, 27 in all. One of the most prolific folk artists, Finster produced scripture-covered images on cutout wood, glass bottles, and many other materials. Prices ranged from $316.25 for a small reverse-painted paperweight to $11,500 for a nearly 7' tall cutout Jesus covered with the "Words of Jesus Only."
Slotin sales frequently feature new discoveries. In general, they are accumulations of previously unknown artists' works discovered after the artists have moved or died. This sale featured Anthony De Bernardin (1889-1972), a self-taught artist from the Pittsburgh area who painted scenes from his neighborhood and other images that appear to have been inspired by magazine illustrations. Sixteen examples in oil on canvas board in an illustrator style sold. Prices ranged from $1840 for Carrying Some Pachet from the Supermarket [sic] to $172.50 for An Ancient Mountain of Sand So Arrid Is the Land [sic].
The nine quilts offered included four anonymous vintage examples and five more modern, signed examples. The top performer was a hand-stitched "S" pattern cotton quilt from the 1930's or '40's that reached $1265. A striking anonymous Sunflower quilt from the Viener collection was disappointing at $345.
Whirligigs, those imaginative combinations of ideas, scrap materials, and ingenious mechanics that move by wind power, are getting scarce at these sales. Only one was offered on the first day-a bucking bronco with moving horse and rider with a spectator astride the rear vane. It brought $805. Others offered the second day included three ex-Viener collection examples, including a red, white, and blue sawing man at $172.50, and an ex-Leslie Eisenberg Folk Art Gallery dancing jigger at $1035.
Another group of eight simpler whirligigs from the Leo Rabkin collection featured carved and painted wood elements with only minimal metal parts. These echo Rabkin's focus on carved wood objects. The prices ranged from $230 to $632.50. All were sold to benefit the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
Characteristic of the world of folk and Outsider art is the use of almost anything as media. This sale introduced bidders to decorated stringed instruments, banjos and ukuleles. Ten lots were offered with the skins decorated with images. Prices ranged from only $86.25 for two different lots, a 1926 Columbia ukulele with cartoon faces with signatures and a 1920's Mavha Moa ukulele with the image of a couple, to $345 for a ukulele decorated with "sexy girls." Sex sells anything apparently!
Folk art also knows no geographic boundaries. For the first time at a Slotin sale, a dozen Inuit art objects were sold. A walrus tusk covered with carved images of Eskimos, bears, seals, etc., from the Rabkin collection, brought $3220. Other examples ranged from only $28.75 for a soapstone image of a diving whale to $1380 for a group of six fish decoys carved from bone and ivory.
Next up for Slotin is the 19th edition of Folk Fest, the annual show with nearly 100 galleries representing hundreds of artists. Scheduled for August 17-19, it will be held again at the North Atlanta Trade Center.
The Slotins, as active supporters of the Folk Art Society of America, will participate in the society's 25th anniversary conference, to held in the Atlanta area October 11-15.
Slotin's fall "Masterpiece" sale will return to Buford, Georgia, on November 10 and 11. More information for all Slotin events is available on line at (www.slotinfolkart.com) or by calling (770) 532-1115 or (404) 403-4244.
Prophet William Blackmon's (1921-2010) painted cedar three-drawer chest of drawers with four sides painted, signed, brought $1380. Steiner photos.
This one-of-a-kind sewing desk from the Leslie Eisenberg Folk Art Gallery, New York City, is carved in the shape of the initials "NMF" for Nellie May Fisher, easily seen when closed. When the desk is open, the letters form a series of unusual compartments. Fisher's name is also painted in black outlined in yellow in block-style letters on the top. With an old (original?) finish, it was disappointing at $460.