Weekly News Roundup: April 27- May 1, 2009

Wrapping up this week’s art, antiques and collectibles news are various auctions in the New York area, the Hirshhorn Museum’s decision to sell several works, rare stamps found in Wales, 17th-century dueling pistols, Egyptian artifacts return home and Tony Bennett’s donation to the National Portrait Gallery.

From The New York Times:
For Sale: Fragments of the Georgian World

A roundup of collections set to go under the hammer in the New York-Pennsylvania region: Georgian female writers’ correspondence, space-age toys from the 1950s and ’60s and vintage laundry memorabilia.

From The New York Times:
Hirshhorn Museum to Auction Eakins Portraits

Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden has decided to part ways with three Thomas Eakins portraits for want of a cash influx for their acquisition fund. The move comes after a two-year assessment of the institution’s collection, which has a total of 220 Eakins works. It is thought that the May 20 sale at Christie’s will bring in a total of $580,000 to $870,000.

From BBC News:
Rare Penny Black hidden in attic

A treasure trove of rare stamps was found in an attic in Wales, most of them preserved beneath crusted bird droppings. In the cache were 27 rare Penny Black stamps—including one of the most prized, from plate 11—and 400 Penny Red and Penny Red-Brown stamps, all issued between 1841 and 1848. The plate 11 Penny Black is expected to sell for £5,000–£6,000 ($7,500–$9,000) at auction in two weeks, and the others for about £200 ($300) each.

From BBC News:
Rare guns exceed auction estimate

The pair of 17th-century flintlock dueling pistols, made by Louis XIV’s gunsmiths, fetched more than twice their presale estimate of £5,000 ($7,500) to sell for £12,000 ($17,900). The guns were recently discovered displayed on a wall in the home of a British collector, who apparently had no idea of their value.

British Museum Returns 454 Artifacts to Egypt

Myers Museum in Windsor, England, has returned 454 Egyptian artifacts back to their homeland. The artifacts were taken from Egypt between 1972 and 1988—well after the 1970 ban on trafficking antiquities. Among the items that were returned are beaded necklaces and bronze coins.

From The Associated Press via Auction Central News:
Tony Bennett gives painting of jazz great to Smithsonian gallery

Tony Bennett added to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery collection this week with his watercolor painting of the late Duke Ellington—just in time for Ellington’s 110th-birthday celebration. Painted in 1993, the portrait features Ellington amid a backdrop of pink roses. Reportedly, the jazz legend sent Bennett a dozen pink roses every time Ellington wrote a new song that he wanted his friend to record. Bennett previously donated a portrait he did of Ella Fitzgerald to the National Portrait Gallery.

From Macworld (UK):
Rare Andy Warhol Apple serigraph print offered at auction

What do a Campbell’s soup can, Marilyn Monroe’s visage and the Apple logo have in common? All three were famously immortalized by Andy Warhol. The rare silkscreen print of the early Apple logo—commissioned in the early ’80s by Del Yokam, Apple’s first COO—will go under the hammer May 6 at O’Gallerie in Portland, Ore.

From BBC News:
‘Looted’ Chinese relic auctioned

In another case of dispute between an auction house and the Chinese government, the auction of an 18th-century jade imperial seal continued despite protests from Beijing. The Qing dynasty relic sold for 1.68 million euros ($2,221,300) in Paris—more than five times its presale estimate. The seal—like the bronze statues from the Yves Saint Laurent collection that elicited a storm of controversy when they were auctioned a couple of months ago—are thought to have been looted from the Summer Palace outside of Beijing during the second Opium War in 1860.

From BBC News:
Rare Darwin book sold for £35,000

One of only 1,250 first-edition copies of “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection” sold in England on Wednesday for £35,000 ($51,720). The rare, first-run copy of Charles Darwin’s seminal work, which still has its original cloth jacket, is a sought-after volume for many bibliophiles.

From Bloomberg:
Newson Chair Sells for Design-Art Record 1.1 Million Pounds

The aluminum lounge chair that appeared in a Madonna video sold Wednesday for £1.1 million ($1,626,000) at Philips de Pury in London, setting a new record for price paid at auction for contemporary design art. The 1988 “Lockheed Lounge” chair, designed by Marc Newson, was one of the artist’s proofs. Experts are hopeful that the sale will boost the market for contemporary design art.

From The New York Times:
More Job Reductions Planned at Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s is slashing 5 percent of its total work force, the auction house announced Tuesday. The move, paired with salary cuts, comes in attempt to cut costs to the tune of $160 million this year. Spared from the staff reductions are the auction house’s art experts, whose jobs should be safe until after the May auctions in New York.

From Riverfront Times (St. Louis):
Musical chairs: At last, the mystery of the missing Chippendales is solved

Four Chippendale chairs that were at the targets of theft in St. Louis several years ago may be headed to “Antiques Roadshow.” Several years ago, the chairs—which owner Fritz Lehmann kept locked in an office, along with other antiques and family heirlooms—were discovered missing. It was later revealed that during building renovations, the office’s doors had been left unlocked. The chairs were found earlier this month in the St. Louis home of 70-year-old man, who has since been charged with a felony count of receiving stolen property.

From BBC News:
HMS Victory bucket is auctioned

A fire bucket supposedly used in the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar sold at auction in England for £5,100 ($7,535), more than four times its low presale estimate of £1,200 ($1,773). The leather bucket was property of the HMS Victory, the ship that, under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson, defeated the French and Spanish navies in the historic battle.

From Business Wire:
Will Seippel Receives George Mason University School of Management Distinguished Alumnus Award

Will Seippel, founder and CEO of the WorthPoint Corp., was awarded the George Mason University School of Management Distinguished Alumnus Award for 2009.Seippel, who received his B.S. in business administration from the School of Management in 1978, was recognized for “his leadership and business acumen, economic impact and entrepreneurship, commitment to global awareness and service to the School of Management.”

From Bloomberg:
Bond Car, Banksy Vandal on Sale; Madonna Dress Unsold

In Bloomberg’s roundup of auction and gallery news in London: The Aston Martin with the 1964 Bond film, “Goldfinger,” on its resume will go up for auction at Bonhams in London next month along with a Volante convertible. It’s expected to go for £160,000–180,000 ($236,400–266,000). Also, a London dealer is hoping to sell a 2005 Banksy painting for close to $1 million, despite the recently declining market for the artist’s work. Madonna’s hot-pink dress and gloves worn in her 1985 “Material Girl” music video failed to sell at auction in London. Its presale estimate was in the range of £80,000 ($118,200), but bidding stopped £48,000 ($70,900).

From KHOU (Houston):
Hundreds claim to be victim of Houston high-society couple

A Houston couple were sentenced to 14 years in jail after shady dealings at the auction house they owned, Hart Galleries, came to light. Investigators began looking into the activities of Jerry Hart and his wife, proprietors of the Houston auction house, after several of their clients came forward claiming that the pair swindled them out of a total of $3.5 million. Hart Galleries catered to Houston’s elite, selling their valuables at auction and building a successful business—one that has recently come tumbling down amid the allegations.

From BBC News:
Radios go for £207,000 in auction

A collection of 148 rare, vintage radios sold for £207,648 ($306,715) at auction in London this week. A highlight of the collection—all made from 1930 to 1950 out of Catalin resin—was a music box that sold for £26,400 ($39,000).

From Bloomberg:
Madonna’s Chair May Fetch 700,000 Pounds in Design-Art Sale

Phillips de Pury is hoping that a piece of furniture that had a cameo in a Madonna music video will get the auction house off to a good start in its first 2009 test of the design-art market. The chair, Mark Newson’s aluminum creation, appeared in Madonna’s 1993 video for her song “Rain.” It is expected to sell for at least £700,000 ($1,033,000). It’s not the only anticipated lot at the London sale, however. A table and lounge chair designed by Zaha Hadid are estimated to bring in £120,000 ($177,000) and £50,000 ($73,800) respectively.

From The New York Times:
More Artworks Sell in Private in Slowdown

After the dismal sales at art auctions in the past year, more and more collectors are relegating their transactions to the private-sale departments of major auction houses. Though private sales are potentially less lucrative, collectors and museums alike are increasingly fearful of tarnishing their reputations through public auctions. Private transactions also provide instant cash without having to wait for a scheduled auction. This trend is welcome at auction houses, where private sales are easier and less expensive than the hoopla of hyping big sales.

From BBC News:
Rare blue diamond goes on display

A 7.03-carat diamond that is expected to sell for the highest price per carat in an upcoming Sotheby’s auction is on show in London. Estimates put the diamond’s value between $5.8 million and $8.5 million thanks to its rarity. It’s one of a handful of blue diamonds in the world. The diamond was found last year at South Africa’s Cullinan mine and will be auctioned in Geneva next month.

From The New York Times:
Art Collection Dwindles as Disputes Continue

John and Marcia Friede will auction off pieces of their vast tribal-art collection at Sotheby’s in May and June. The entire 4,000-piece collection was intended to be given to San Francisco’s de Young Museum, but due to an inheritance dispute over John Friede’s mother’s estate—and a $25-million debt the Friedes owe Sotheby’s—10 pieces in the collection will be auctioned in New York and Paris. The Friedes’ collection is considered one of the most comprehensive collections of tribal art in the world, amassed over four decades. It boasts an unparalleled group of items from Papua New Guinea.

From The New York Times:
British Copies Found of Ben Franklin Letters

Alan Houston, professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, discovered a trove of 47 copies of letters relating to Benjamin Franklin while doing research at the British Library. The letters, not seen since 1755, were all written by Franklin, to Franklin or about Franklin. They will be published in The William and Mary Quarterly.

From The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times:
After losing home, studios in wildfire, painter Rosenquist faces uncertain future

A brush fire in Aripeka, Fla., destroyed the home and studio of American painter James Rosenquist this weekend. In addition to the buildings, the fire consumed Rosenquist’s current projects, including a huge mural commissioned by the French government. Firefighters fought to contain the blaze but were forced to pull out when they learned of the propane tank and other flammable material inside the artist’s studio.

Elizabeth Hendley is a WorthPoint writer based in Seattle.

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