Kelly Crow couldn’t resist the lure of the Lehman auction in Philadelphia. It’s a good thing for the Wall Street Journal that she went. They sold every item and doubled the pre-auction estimate. Clearly there were lots of souvenir hunters but others insist it was the low, low estimates on the works which suggests, again, that the recession has done nothing to dampen the appetite for art. It just has to come at the right price–or with an irresistible provenance:
Call it the Lehman premium: The daylong auction, expected to bring in around $750,000, stretched well into the evening and brought in $1.34 million, with every single artwork finding a buyer.
At least 2,000 collectors and souvenir seekers had signed up to bid on the bank’s art, with at least 400 people packing into Freeman’s narrow salesroom and the rest bidding over the telephone or online.
Lindsay Pollock also made the trip for Bloomberg and get these explanations for the feeding frenzy:
“The Lehman name has been having a greater effect than anyone expected,” said Kelly Wright, a New Hampshire-based art and antiques appraiser who consulted with the Lehman estate on the sale. Wright estimated that a quarter of the sale’s audience was affiliated with Lehman in some way. […]
“I think there was a certain amount of trophy hunting,” said Alasdair Nichol, Freeman’s vice chairman and auctioneer, after the sale, noting the presence of former Lehman employees and staffers from other financial companies. “What’s not to like? It’s nice boardroom art, presented nicely, ready to go up on the walls. People lapped it up.”
Crow’s WSJ report picks up the action:
Don Stanton, a Boston wealth manager who sits on the board of the Rhode Island School of Design, credited the sale’s “crazily low” estimates but said the sale also showed “certain people would still like to buy anything from Lehman.”
New York collectors Jess and Judy Esterow attended the sale, as did Alexander Glauber, a corporate art adviser who once helped Lehman place the art among its offices in New York, Boston and Wilmington, Del.
At least five bidders went after photographer Berenice Abbott’s views of butcher shops and skycrapers, “New York in the 30’s.” The group, which once hung on the 31st executive floor of Lehman’s Seventh Avenue headquarters, went for $15,000, over its $10,000 estimate.
Other works from the executive suites included James E. Allen’s 1934 etchings of steelworkers like “The Connectors,” which sold for $3,000, over its $1,800 estimate.
The star of the sale was a late-period Roy Lichtenstein screenprint of the Statue of Liberty, “I Love Liberty,” sold for $49,000, more than twice its high estimate. A mint-green abstract by Friedel Dzubas, “Tundra II,” from 1962 sold to an online bidder for $28,600, exceeding its $15,000 estimate.
Works that looked like bargains soared quickly. “Franklin 100,” a color screen print of a $100 bill with gold leaf by artist Tony King, was expected to go for $400 and sold for $4,687.
Lehman Art Auction Sells Out (Wall Street Journal)
Lehman Art Draws Trophy Hunters to $1.35m Sale (Lindsay Pollock/Bloomberg)