Weekly News Roundup: May 4- May 8, 2009

Closing out this week’s headlines in art, antiques and collectibles is a vast African art collection, pieces from a Chicago landmark, a rare chess set in England and antique torture devices go on sale to benefit Amnesty International.

From The New York Times:
Auction of African Art From Gross Collection

Thirty pieces from late sculptor and collector Chaim Gross’ collection of African art are on preview at Sotheby’s before they hit the auction block May 15. Gross’ collection is regarded as one of the most comprehensive in a segment of the art market that is rife with fakes. It’s also long been out of the public eye. The sale is expected to bring in $3–$4 million for the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation.

From The Associated Press via The Chicago Tribune:
Pieces from historic Chicago building up for sale

Christie’s will auction off pieces of the historic 1894 Chicago Stock Exchange Building in New York on June 2. Included in the sale are cast- and wrought-iron elevator panels from the building, expected to fetch $30,000 each, as well as leaded-glass ceiling panels estimated to sell for between $7,000 and $10,000 each. Designed by renowned architect Louis Sullivan, the building was demolished in the early 1970s after failed attempts to preserve the property.

From BBC News:
£5K hope for ‘rubbish’ chess set

A late-18th- or early-19th-century chess set is expected to sell for at least £5,000 ($7,600) when it goes under the hammer in England. Made in France with ivory pieces, the chess set once belonged to Welsh landowner Lord Mostyn. Mostyn’s butler, James Baxter, kept the set when Mostyn asked him to throw it out. Now Baxter’s great-grandchildren are putting the chess set—prized for its rarity and because all of the figures remain intact—up for sale.

From Times & Transcript (Canada):
Antique torture devices auctioned

Proceeds from an upcoming auction of antique torture devices, featuring items dating back to the 1500s, will benefit Amnesty International, as well as other organizations that work to prevent torture. The 252-piece collection, which was last seen in 1893, will be on the block at Guernsey auction house in New York.

From The New York Times:
Modern Masters Suffer at Auction

Among the unsold works at Sotheby’s first sale of the spring: a 1938 Picasso (put up for sale by a victim of Bernie Madoff) and a 1951 bronze Giacometti sculpture. The auction house’s impressionist and modern-art sale disappointed, bringing in $61.3 million to its estimated $81.5 million. Sotheby’s previously attempted to sell both blue-chip works privately, but the price wasn’t right for private buyers or those at the auction. The sale did have a highlight, however—Mondrian’s 1934 “Composition in Black and White, With Double Lines” went for a cool $9.2 million.

From The Guardian (UK):
Art historians claim Van Gogh’s ear ‘cut off by Gauguin’

Two German historians are refuting the well-known story of the circumstances under which Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear. They claim that Van Gogh didn’t cut off his own ear after a fight with fellow artist and friend Paul Gauguin in 1888—as most have come to believe—but that Gauguin was actually the one who wielded the razor. The two historians, after 10 years of studying original documents relating to the incident, have concluded that Gauguin, who was a master fencer, cut off his friend’s ear. The two then agreed to perpetuate the false story.

New York Dealer Restitutes Painting Sold in Nazi Germany

On Tuesday, New York art dealer Richard Feigen returned a Caracci painting that he bought in 2000 to its rightful owner, the descendants of German art dealer Max Stern. Under pressure from the Nazis, Stern was forced to sell the painting in 1937. Shortly after, he fled Germany. Feigen questioned the painting’s provenance in 2004 when it appeared on the Art Loss Register, a database that catalogs stolen and missing artworks. Apparently, the painting was part of the same 1937 sale as works that were recently restituted by Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts.

From Forbes:
Koons Egg Sculpture to Test Art Market Waters

Hearts, then balloons—now a giant egg. Jeff Koons’ 7-foot-wide turquoise egg sculpture will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s on May 12, but there is speculation as to whether it will sell. Sales in the past few months have shown that the most bankable of lots are Old Master paintings—not contemporary work like Koons’ giant foil-wrapped egg. What’s almost definite is that the piece will likely not fetch its presale estimate of $6-$8 million. If it sells, and for how much, will say a lot about the state of the contemporary-art market.

From The Bristol (Conn.) Press:
Historic Terry clocks auctioned in Plymouth

A collection of late 18th- and early 19th-century clocks that belonged to the estate of Eli Terry was auctioned off in Plymouth, Mass., last weekend. Terry, an innovative clockmaker who set up his workshop in Plymouth in 1793, is credited with bringing clocks into the mainstream. Before Terry used waterpower to fuel the mass production of clocks, the timepieces were found only in the homes of elite society. One 1860 clock in the sale sold for $850.

From BBC News:
Record price for rare Motown disc

One of only two copies of Frank Wilson’s unreleased “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” record sold in England last week for £25,742 ($38,552). Motown boss Berry Gordy had all other copies of the 1965 record destroyed when Wilson became more involved with songwriting and producing at the record label. Wilson wrote a string of successful hits for the Four Tops and Diana Ross and the Supremes, and “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” was largely forgotten until it emerged as a cult classic in the Northern Soul scene in England in the 1970s.

From Bloomberg:
Madoff Investor Puts Picasso ‘Musketeer’ On Sale At Christie’s

Jerome Fisher, co-founder of the Nine West Group and victim of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, is anonymously auctioning a 1968 Picasso work at Christie’s on Wednesday. Fisher purchased “Mousquetaire a la pipe” in 2004 for $7.2 million, and if all goes according to plan, the painting may bring in double that amount this time around. The estimates are in the $12-to-$18-million range. Though the painting is listed anonymously, two dealers have identified the seller as Fisher.

Rose Committee Votes In Favor Of Brandeis Administration

After the outcry following Brandeis University’s decision to close its Rose Art Museum, the university cobbled together a committee to decide if the move was warranted. The Future of the Rose Committee has now voted in favor of the university’s decision, which also includes plans to deaccession several works from the museum’s collection.

Elizabeth Hendley is a WorthPoint writer based in Seattle.

WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth

Join WorthPoint on Twitter and Facebook.