Freemans Part I Fine American & European Paintings & Sculpture Auction Results

With a laudable 82 percent sell-through rate by lot, or nearly ninety percent sold by value, Freeman’s June 21st sale of ‘Fine American & European Paintings and Sculpture’ proved to be a great success, with 102 of the 127 lots on offer finding buyers and the sale totaling $1,182,000 hammer with premium. Following the well-touted current auction model that emphasizes quality and selectivity over volume, this sale was characterized by its manageable size, and featured choice, fresh-to-market lots, most having excellent estate provenance. While prices realized did not, in all instances, match the very frothy levels achieved in late 2007-early 2008, one need only try to buy quality things in the crowded Freeman’s auction room on Sunday to know that this market is still quite robust, and apparently already on the mend. Against the backdrop of the art media’s drumbeat that the proverbial bloom is off the art market rose (or whatever idiom you like), buyers aggressively chased the judiciously selected, privately consigned lots on offer. On the other end of the equation, while many would-be sellers still remain fearful of offering property in a perceptibly difficult market, those who did offer up good things at this Freeman’s auction discovered that the rewards from doing so outweighed the risks.

Beyond the numbers, however, the true ‘tale of the art world tape’ lies in a belief based on a premise – this premise being that if auctioneers and art dealers are currently navigating in a genuinely ‘soft art market,’ then not surprisingly, the belief amongst these groups is that it will be the well funded private collector, having experienced other such art (and stock) market hiccups, who will play an increasingly prominent role in buying and selling at auction.

This art market paradigm is also the very real result of a shift in the actions of dealers who traditionally buy and sell at auction. As buyers, most dealers are understandably not accumulating stock as they would in bull markets. They are either buying with extreme selectivity, or in many cases, holding off buying all together. As sellers, their role has also been curtailed, for as the market has tightened, auctioneers have become much more reticent to offer shopped trade lots, fearing (correctly in many cases) such lots are hard to sell in a difficult market. has Thus, as the trade’s role as potential buyer and potential seller has been greatly minimized, auction houses are, to repeat, increasingly looking to the much sought after private collector to step up in his/her increasing role as both.

To this end, the privates did not disappoint in either role at Freeman’s, with the better Pennsylvania/American and European lots all being distinctly non-trade in origin, and the majority of lots, including one of the better paintings in the sale, an excellent Fern Coppedge painting, lot 111, “January Sunshine,” finding good, private buyers. Interestingly, while the latter was consigned from a private east coast collection, it was snapped up for $109,000 (all prices cited include a 20%/20% buyer’s premium) by a private west coast buyer, a nod to Freeman’s marketing department and expansive rolodex of contacts. That painting, measuring 25 x 30 inches, was smartly housed in its original Frederick Harer frame and depicted one of the artist’s sought after wintry plein-air local vistas.

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