On May 25, 2019, the amiable team at Palm Beach Modern Auctions greeted “regulars” and new bidders alike to a 532-lot sale of high-quality art, designer furniture, and outdoor sculptures from fine private collections. For many in attendance, the drawcard was the long list of desirable artists represented in the sale, but others, especially from the South Florida region, came specifically to acquire chic yet functional mid-century furnishings for their oceanfront homes.
“Even if people just came to learn more about what we sell, we were delighted to be their hosts for the day,” said auctioneer and co-owner Rico Baca. “Very often, those who are new to a particular type of art go on to become passionate collectors and valued, long-term customers.”
Rising to the top of prices realized, an oil on canvas painting of a mother and child in a garden setting by Le Pho (Vietnamese/French, 1907-2001) sold for $52,000 against an estimate of $20,000-$40,000. The winning bidder was a collector from China. “Le Pho is in demand worldwide. Prices for his artworks are going up, and we knew this painting would do well because of all the enquiries we fielded prior to auction day,” Baca said.
Another work that attracted a flurry of presale interest was David Hockney’s (British, b. 1937-) Pool Made with Paper and Blue Ink. The small 1980 lithograph from the artist’s “Paper Pools” series was signed and numbered 66, from an edition of 1,000. Against an auction estimate of $8,000-$12,000, it made $28,600.
Frank Stella’s (American, b. 1936-) 1992 lithograph-screenprint-collage titled The Candles (Stapling Down and Cutting Up VII) combined a myriad of colors with fantasy elements. It bore an Irving Galleries, Palm Beach label on verso and was accompanied by its original sales receipt and appraisal document. The artwork swept past its $8,000-$12,000 estimate to settle at $18,200.
The auction also showcased artworks deaccessioned by the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens of West Palm Beach, with auction proceeds earmarked for educational programs. The consignment included collections of paintings by two European Impressionists: Dietz Edzard (German, 1893-1963) and Suzanne Eisendieck (Polish, 1908-1998). Although married, the artists built their own successful, independent careers.
“There was incredible interest in these particular artworks, and all of the lots sold,” said Baca. A circa 1955 Eisendieck painting titled Ballet d’Enfants, accompanied by a COA from the artist’s daughter, Cristine Edzard Goodwin, sold for $5,850 against a $1,500-$2,500 estimate.
Other noteworthy art results included: a Gabriel Godard (French, b. 1933-) work on canvas, $7,800 (est. $500-$800); a Howard Behrens (American, 1933-2014) oil on canvas titled First on the Beach, $5,525 (est. $1,500-$3,500); and a cast-paper relief from a 1976 signed edition by Louise Nevelson (Russian/American, 1899-1988), titled Moon Garden, $6,175.
There was intense competition for designer furniture and accessories like a polyhedral wood and metal rolling bar cart in the manner of Ico and Luisa Parisi, which commanded $9,100 – nearly five times the high estimate. Also, a small Paul Evans Cityscape cabinet estimated at $2,000-$3,000 soared to $7,150, while a pair of Marzio Cecchi chrome and rope lounge chairs more than doubled their high estimate to sell for $8,450. A coffee table by Gio Ponti – always a golden name to collectors of mid-century Italian design – reached the higher end of its estimate range at $14,300.
“Our auction gallery was full for hours during this sale, which was amazing since it’s late in the spring season,” Rico Baca remarked. “In addition, our internet and phone lines were busy from start to finish, with callers from as far away as Asia. It may sound simplistic, but art by quality artists will always draw a crowd.”