The highlight and highest price of any lot of this year's auction (and all previous Whim Museum auctions) was this 36" x 48" painting by Dove, Under the Xmas Lights. The painting depicts a bird's-eye perspective of the waterfront area and Strand Street in Frederiksted (one of two towns in St. Croix, the other being Christiansted) with jubilant Crucian dancers celebrating the holiday. The painting sold for $19,040 to a not-for-profit St. Croix foundation.
This small framed painting of a tropical island home and garden, Home Boy, signed by St. Croix artist Jean Merwin (1932-2001) in 1991, fetched $392.
The Crucian mahogany planter's chair, signed and dated as made in 1987 by St. Croix master furniture maker and woodworker Fletcher Pence (who died in the late 1980's), was bought by stateside photographer and West Indian furniture collector Gary McCracken for $952.
St. Croix Landmarks Society, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
by Michael Connors, Ph.D.
Photos by Gary McCracken
Sunday, March 4 marked the date of this year's Whim Museum antiques auction, sponsored by the St. Croix Landmarks Society. Jeff Jeffers, owner of Garth's Auctions in Delaware, Ohio, again officiated as volunteer auctioneer. Jeffers is Garth's principal auctioneer and is renowned for his charity work. So far, he has helped to raise more than $2.5 million for various charitable organizations, including St. Croix's Whim Museum.
The Whim Museum auction has essentially been responsible, and is credited, for having brought colonial West Indian furniture forward as an independent collecting field. The auction is one of the most important fund-raising events sponsored by the St. Croix Landmarks Society in order to carry out its mission of preserving historical assets for the benefit of the U.S. Virgin Islands community. Proceeds from the auction are used to support the Whim Museum's educational outreach programs and its research library and archives.
John Edwards, who has been involved in the Whim Museum auction for 20 years and is one of its co-chairs, said that this year's consignments included "one of the nicest collections of Crucian [from St. Croix] furniture the museum has seen in years." He went on to say that this year's auction was also a "great tribute to St. Croix's late artist Dove."
The highlight of the auction was the collection of five paintings by Lloyd Alphonso Braffith, better known on the island as "Dove." Dove, who was born in St. Croix in 1940 and died in 2002, was a self-taught artist and established himself with his brightly colored folky, storytelling images. His visual narratives chronicle St. Croix's folklore with cultural imagery of the island. As a street artist, he painted en plein air as a true Caribbean folk artist. His paintings have been appreciating in value for the last ten years.
This year, one of his paintings sold for the highest price ever achieved at the Whim Museum auction in its 26 years. The 36" x 48" painting, Under the Xmas Lights, sold for $19,040 (includes buyer's premium). Other Dove paintings went at $2016, $3024, $2464, and $1232.
Colonial West Indian furniture, the majority of which was Crucian and crafted of island mahogany, realized gains in value compared with the low prices of the last few years of the recession. For example, a Crucian mahogany bed fetched $2800; a round occasional side table sold for $840; a mahogany Ã©tagÃ¨re brought $1120; a mahogany folding games table sold for $896; and a schoolmaster's desk realized $1120.
There were many other lots of antique glassware, silver, and china. Furniture included not only Caribbean but American, European, and South American pieces. The fine art included four early etchingsone a Rembrandt restrike from a 1641 platethat sold as one lot for a low $560.
There were 164 lots in the sale. Jeffers managed to knock them all out without a break. In addition, during the live auction there were 40 lots displayed in the Whim silent auction; an antiques and collectibles flea market that continued during the sale; book signings by local authors; woodworking demonstrations; and an open house with docents' lectures in the Whim Museum Great House. More than 200 visitors to the museum grounds during the day kept the bidding lively and exciting. Auctioneer Jeff Jeffers did have to sit down during the sale of the $19,040 Dove painting, while the two (very serious) bidders took their time deciding on each bid.
For more information, visit the Web site (www.stcroixlandmarks.com).
The mid- to late 19th-century Crucian mahogany four-post bedstead fetched $2800.
Everybody wanted this pair of 19th-century Crucian mahogany rocking chairs. Pairs are very rare. The pair was finally knocked down to a St. Croix collector for $3248. Dealer David Skinner of Charleston, South Carolina, was the underbidder.
An early 20th-century mahogany sleigh bed, probably made in Haiti, went at $728.
This late 19th-/early 20th-century Crucian mahogany Ã©tagÃ¨re sold to an island collector for $1092.
This early 19th-century Crucian mahogany games table with a curved and folding top sold to a dealer for $896.