The Burlington Free Press’s Molly Walsh does an excellent job explaining why the far-and-away record $46m for Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace” doesn’t necessarily mean every Rockwell in the world is now worth huge sums. The reason Walsh even asks is the fate of a painting Rockwell gave to the now defunct Taft School—and is now the property of the Burlington School Board— that is on loan to the University of Vermont’s Fleming Museum. “The Babysitter” has been viewed as an opportunity to raise cash before. In the mid-1990s, private funds were raised to substitute for the money that the Rockwell might have generated. Since then, the work has only increased in value with an insurance appraisal of $900k even before this recent spate of new Rockwell prices:
Six Rockwells were auctioned Dec. 4 at Sotheby’s for a combined total of nearly $60 million.
But don’t go thinking that all 4,000 works by the artist are now worth mega-millions, or that “The Babysitter” specifically would fetch enough to build several new Burlington High Schools.
Whether recent trends will result in “a major adjustment” to Rockwell prices is unclear, Plunkett said. A portrait of Dwight Eisenhower by Rockwell sold in the $100,000 range at the Dec. 4 auction, a price that seemed low to Plunkett.
And Christie’s, which had its own mega-auction of American art Dec. 5, did not see the big numbers Sotheby’s reeled in for Rockwells the day before. The top selling Rockwell at Christie’s went for a mere $1.6 million, small change compared to the price for “Grace.”
Can Burlington’s ‘Babysitter’ up her fees? Rockwell work reexamined (Burlington Free Press)