The Second Part of the sale of Groot’s ceramic collection at Treadway Toomey was a rout, not quite a disaster but close. It pretty much defined fire sale (an interesting reference idn this context) but it still could have been worse. I still marvel at the Groot Foundation’s clumsy handling of her estate. Part 1 was surprisingly successful if only that almost everything sold.
Above image: Bene Bergado, El Mago Atacado Por El Gigante, 2001, color photograph, 16.75 x 21.5 inches. Estimate: $700 – $900. Unsold.
This time about 40% of the lots did not sell and the bulk sold for prices that were distressingly low. If the last sale was selling at 30 cents on the dollar, this one was often 15 cents or lower. One of Paul Day’s terracotta masterpieces (he rarely sells his original ceramics any more) May Day (2002) sold for a tenth of its value, $3,125, although a bronze of his, Madeleine 1, did better, fetching $13,420.
This piece sold for a very low $13,420. Yes, you read correctly, but let me explain: the work was Empire of Dust (2006) by Beth Cavener. A large work with a value of about $75,000, it was my portrait (I later discovered) as a man who has grown too large for his soapbox.
The saddest moment was the sale of Georges Jeanclos’ magnificent Kamakura V (1986-87) for $2,500. Yes, it had a small chip and two slight cracks but that is par for course in this artist’s work and it should not have affected its sale price.
On a happier note, Grayson Perry’s Isn’t That Damien Hirst Over There? (1995) topped the sale at a healthy and appropriate $133,500, followed by Viola Frey’s Bluebird Lady (ca. 1986) for $84,500 and Peter Voulkos’ Big Ed (1994) at $67,100. It was a sturdy price but far from his record of $ $105,750 in 2010 at Cowans Auctions sale, curated by Mark Del Vecchio. After this, Robert Arneson’s modestly scaled Ear Piece (1991) fetched $39,900.
The question is will this will further weaken the ceramics market? It will make the next six months a poor time to sell. But the ceramics market has been slowly heading downward anyway. Too many large collections are heading to the auctioneer’s block (partly because few museums want to acquire them en masse) and the results are becoming predictable. Good work by top names will do O.K., while the bargain basement is going to offer some wonderful buys for canny, selective collectors and dealers with deep pockets who can buy and wait.
And a heads up: the two hefty catalogs for this sale are the only print documentation and will become collectors’ items. You can still buy them from Treadway Toomey, or, if you are a member of cfile.campus, you can read them online in C-Library.
For further highlights, scroll down and you can read the full list of results here.
Garth Clark is the founder of Cfile Foundation and Chief Editor of cfile.daily.
Do you love or loathe these results from the world of contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.