Weekly News Roundup: March 16-20, 2009

Wrapping up this week’s art, antiques and collectibles news are two auctions of space-flight memorabilia, a pair of paintings worth six figures each, sports memorabilia from a Manchester United legend and a pearl-and gem-encrusted carpet that brings in $5.5 million.

From The New York Times:
Rarefied Collectibles: Relics from Moon Trips

Dallas’ Heritage Auction Galleries plans to auction off on April 1 flight memorabilia that U.S. astronauts have collected over the years—and unlike most collectibles, signs of wear and tear are actually coveted characteristics of space-flight items. Heritage will auction items from spoons and camera pins to Velcro straps. Regency-Superior auctioneers in Beverly Hills is holding a similar sale, which includes a 1963 yellow-nylon test spacesuit (estimated price: $300,000–$500,000).

From The Associated Press via Auction Central News:
Ellsworth Woodward paintings discovered in high school library

Two Ellsworth Woodward paintings worth $150,000 each were found in the library of a Louisiana high school. Originally gifts to the school from Bolton High School’s class of 1917, the landscapes by the famous New Orleans painter are being housed at the Alexandria Museum of Art in Alexandria, La., until proper facilities are built for the paintings. Woodward is known as one of the founders of Tulane University’s Newcomb College.

From BBC News:
Best memorabilia raises thousands

Photographs, jerseys and other memorabilia from the collection of soccer legend George Best went under the hammer on Thursday in Belfast. Highlights of the sale included a replica 1968 European Cup trophy—commemorating one of the most famous games in Best’s illustrious career when Manchester United beat Benfica—which sold for £2,600 ($3,750).

From Bloomberg:
Pearl Carpet of Beroda Sells For Record $5.5 Million

The Pearl Carpet of Beroda, which contains more than a million natural Basra seed pearls, sold for $5.5 million at a Sotheby’s sale in Qatar, setting a record for the highest price paid for a rug at auction. The carpet was commissioned in 1865 by the Maharajah of Beroda, India, who possibly intended to leave it as a gift at the tomb of Muhammad in Medina. The previous record holder was a 17th-century Persian rug that belonged to tobacco heiress Doris Duke. It sold for $4.5 million last summer.

From BBC News:
Darwin first print up for auction

Keys of Aylsham auctioneers in Norfolk, England, will auction off a first-edition, first-issue copy of Charles Darwin’s 1859 landmark tome, “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection,” on April 30. Only 1,250 copies of the book were printed in its first run, and this copy is expected to bring in £25,000 ($36,330).

From The Art Newspaper:
Australian art dealer investigated by fraud squad

Authorities in New South Wales, Australia, are investigating Ronald Coles, a well-known Sydney art dealer, after allegations of fraud surfaced. Coles’ clients, to whom he sold artworks for their personal investment portfolios, accuse him of not following Australian law regarding this type of transaction and also selling their artworks without their permission or giving them the proceeds from the sales. The Robert Coles Investment Gallery specializes in prominent Australian artists.

From Bloomberg:
Versace London Sale Beats Estimates, Fetches $10.5 Million

Even with the loss of its anticipated headliner—Johann Zoffany’s 1783 “Portrait of Major George Maule”—Sotheby’s sale of the contents of late designer Gianni Versace’s Italian villa raked in a whopping $10.5 million, doubling the total presale estimate. A mere nine lots out of the 545 went unsold. The sale’s top-selling lot was a piece commissioned by Pauline Borghese, Napoleon’s sister. The Karl Roos-designed gilt-mounted cherry wood bookcase sold for £601,250 ($874,500).

From Bloomberg:
Christie’s to Offer Qing Imperial Clock at Hong Kong Auction

In the auction house’s first sale in China since the Yves Saint Laurent Qing bronzes debacle, Christie’s will auction a Qing imperial clock in May at a sale in Hong Kong. The clock’s twin piece sold for a record $5 million last May—more than 10 times its presale estimate. Despite China’s tightened sanctions on Christie’s, the clock is expected to fetch at least as much as its twin did last year.

Christie’s Charity Auction Surpasses Expectations

A Christie’s auction to benefit AVEC, or Association pour la Vie et l’Espoir contre le Cancer (Association for Life and Hope Against Cancer), raised $6 million on Tuesday in Paris. Among the 28 lots that went under the hammer were works by Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Richard Serra, whose “Backstop (to Thurman Munson)” sculpture had the highest bid with €700,000 ($742,670).

From The New York Times:
Bill Seeks to Regulate Museums’ Art Sales

The New York State Legislature introduced a bill on Tuesday that would make it illegal for museums to sell parts of their collections to cover operating costs. In addition to being influenced by the recent controversy at Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum, the bill also addresses the National Academy Museum’s December sale of two Hudson River School paintings to raise money for the institution. Though strongly condemned in the art-museum world, deaccessioning currently has no legal implications—partly because of self-imposed restrictions by groups like the Association of Art Museum Directors.

From The New York Times:
Auction Offers 500 Lots of Elvis Memorabilia

Attention Elvis fanatics: Gotta Have It Collectibles is putting 500 lots of Elvis Presley memorabilia up for sale on its Web site, including several items that the King of Rock ‘n Roll wore on stage. Notable pieces include a blue jumpsuit and cape with gold lining (minimum bid: $100,000) and a belt that starts at $8,000. Bidding goes until March 25.

From The New York Times:
Museum Family Denounces Brandeis

The family of the major benefactor of Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum has added their criticism to the swirling debate about the museum’s future. Members of the art community were outraged when Brandeis trustees voted to close the museum and sell its collection to raise funds for the university.

Responding to the criticism, the group recanted, and the fate of the museum is unsure. As an appointed panel begins a series of meetings this week to resolve the issue, the family of the museum’s major benefactor wants to be heard and asks that the museum to remain open and its collection untouched.

From The Evening Standard (UK):
Versace star lot withdrawn over theft fear

A Johann Zoffany painting that was to be the headlining lot in Sotheby’s upcoming sale of the contents of Gianni Versace’s Italian villa has been taken off the auction block due to questions about its provenance. Presale estimates for “Portrait of Major George Maule” were between £40,000–£60,000 ($56,200–$84,200), but the painting won’t receive a single bid because of speculation that it was stolen 15 years before Versace acquired it.

Descendants of Major Maule contacted the Art Loss Register after seeing the painting featured in an article about the auction, which begins Wednesday, and informed the organization that the painting had been stolen 30 years ago. While Art Loss Register and Sotheby’s investigate the claim, the painting has been removed from the auction.

From The Guardian (UK):
Grapes of wrath: Guernsey wartime wines fetch £50,000

Results from a story reported on last month: The 73 bottles of wine—and one bottle of Champagne—hidden from the Nazis on the Channel Islands during World War II sold yesterday at Bonhams for a total of £50,000 ($70,200). The biggest-grossing lot was two 1934 bottles of Château d’Yquem sauternes that sold for £1,000 ($1,400).

From Wealth Bulletin:
Bonhams whisky sale puts buying spirit into investors

Apparently the collectible Scotch-whisky market is rather recession proof. At a Bonhams sale of rare and collectible whiskies in Edinburgh last week, 95 percent of the 400 lots sold for a total of £92,376 ($130,200). The highest seller was a Highland Park 12-year-old single malt that went for £1,860 ($2,600)—more than three times its high estimate.

From The Detroit Free Press:
Rosa Parks’ items go up for bid

A collection of Rosa Parks’ personal items are being sold by a New York auction house, and The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Mich., is one of the contenders to acquire the collection. Included in the Rosa Parks Archive—thought to be worth several million dollars—are letters, the hat Parks wore the day that started the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., and presidential and congressional medals awarded to her. Several civil-rights and African-American history institutions are also interested in the collection.

From BBC News:
Old toys ‘could earn thousands’

British antiques expert Hilary Kay suggests looking in your attic if you’d like to earn some extra cash. Vintage games and toys—at least those in good shape—can be worth thousands of dollars at auction, partly because items from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s play upon collectors’ nostalgia.

From BBC News:
In pictures: Vintage film posters

Christie’s London is holding a sale of rare vintage movie posters this Wednesday, and BBC News has a great slide show of the posters that will go under the hammer. Among the notables are posters from “Sunset Boulevard” (estimate: $5,600–$8,500), “La Passion de Jeanne D’Arc” (estimate: $5,600–$8,500) and “Sabrina” (estimate: $4,200–$7,100).

From The Associated Press via the Denver Post:
Rare Superman comic sells for $317,200

A 1938 edition of Action Comics No. 1—the first comic book to feature Superman—sold for $317,200 at an online auction last week. One of only 100 copies produced, the comic book is considered the “Holy Grail” for collectors. ComicConnect.com hosted the sale for the previous owner, who purchased the comic book for a mere 35¢ in the 1950s.

From The New York Times:
These Canvases Need Oil And a Good Driver

Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal will play host to an exhibit of four of BMW’s famous Art Cars for two weeks this month. The cars, painted by the likes of Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and Frank Stella, have been a promotional tool of the company since 1975 when art dealer/race-car driver Hervé Poulain asked Alexander Calder to adorn the BMW he drove at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. BMW ran with the idea, and the Art Cars have been exhibited at the Louvre and both the New York and Bilbao Guggenheims.

Elizabeth Hendley is a WorthPoint writer based in Seattle.

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