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Mysteries at Auction

In light of the recent news about the withdrawn Elvis embalming tools from an upcoming Leslie Hindman Auction, I thought I would steer away from the macabre and back towards the fine art realm. In nearly every auction, there is usually at least one item that takes off and exceeds even the expert’s expectations. The Elvis-related instruments were pulled from the sale due to a question of ownership. Provenance, or the documented heritage of a piece, is very important for sales.  The authenticity and documentation of  ownership is not only important for celebrity memorabilia, but just about anything for sale at auction.

This is the first part of a series that will take a closer look at the value and worth ascribed to fine art. Now is as good a time as ever to demystify the odd lots and exceptional results that auction houses and art galleries play witness to. Recently a work passed through the doors of Wright Auctions during their Living Contemporary auction, and the following piece:
– Caught my eye right away. The piece seems like something an advertising excavation – with it’s raw textures and cool balance of colors. What was most intriguing was the fact that here was a work with an anonymous artist, a work already carrying an estimate of $3,000-5,000. Despite the lack of provenance, the piece realized more that double it’s high estimate.

Wright specialist Michael Jefferson weighed in on the sale and had the following to say about the work’s remarkable price tag .”Its not clear why that piece did so well.” He admits. Offering some conjecture about it’s brilliant performance,”I think that there are one of two things going on. One, I wonder if several people out there were savvy enough and knew who did this piece. There was speculation that the artist Ramond Haines was responsible. This was because the sale had another piece (lot 199) which fit with the aesthetics of collection and he was a Parisian artist with a collage style.”

So basically, the piece had something fundamentally compelling. Whatever it was that caught my eye, others seem to have taken note as well. Michael confirms this and admits “that the piece had a presence to it, an object quality. What that means is that the piece resonates on its own. The colors are subtle and warm, intermixed. It also appeared to have artist’s original stretcher-frame and it had a feeling like it was lifted from the artist’s wall in fifties or sixties Paris. The collector had encapsulated it in an acrylic box – almost as if it was an artifact. It was as if it was from another civilization or place. It eclipsed my expectations and [it seems] people judged it on its merits and not based on who did it and when.”

All Images courtesy of Wright Auction.