Freeman's

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Dunham Townend
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Published: 9 November 2017

Freeman’s Modern & Contemporary Art Auction sets Record

On Tuesday, Freeman’s Modern & Contemporary Art auction totaled over $2.1 million and was led by an auction record-breaking draped canvas painting by artist Sam Gilliam (American b. 1933). The highly anticipated “Idylls I” skyrocketed past its presale high estimate of $80,000, ultimately selling for $370,000 to one of the 17 phone bidders enthusiastically competing for the lot. 

The auction included two important paintings by Gilliam, both of which came from the same private collection.  The two works generated considerable pre-sale interest, and the excitement in the sale room leading up to the back-to-back lots was palpable.  When the first of the two lots - “EAST II,” a fine example of the artist’s beveled-edge paintings - came up for sale, 12 phone bidders stood at attention, eagerly waiting for Freeman’s Chairman, Alasdair Nichol, to open the lot.  Once bidding commenced, it quickly escalated, and the work ultimately sold for nearly four times its high estimate, realizing $156,250. This success was immediately followed by the record-breaking result for the vibrant and dynamic draped canvas, “Idylls I.” 

“We were honored to be entrusted with these two excellent and much-treasured paintings by Sam Gilliam.  It was a pleasure to offer them for sale and a thrill to see them sell at such a high level,” Dunham Townend, Head of the Modern & Contemporary Art Department said.

The estimate-shattering prices achieved for the two works by Gilliam were undoubted auction highlights, but they were by no means atypical in a sale where many lots exceeded expectations.  Other notable results include $78,125 for “Les Romains de la Décadence” by Belgian artist James Ensor (estimate: $20,000-30,000); $37,500 for “3 Circles” by Alexander Calder (estimate: $10,000-15,000); $37,500 for “Dream of E” by Saul Steinberg (estimate: 10,000-15,000); and $100,000 for “Curved Plane/Figure VII, Study A” by Robert Mangold (estimate: $40,000-60,000). “Tales of Genji III” and “Tales of Gengi IV” by Helen Frankenthaler, which hung to either side of Gilliam’s draped canvas in the exhibition gallery, realized $75,000 and $43,750, respectively.  

The auction elicited strong interest from a global audience of notable art collectors, connoisseurs and institutions and welcomed a considerable number of new registered bidders and successful buyers. The gallery was a flurry of activity throughout the five-day exhibition, and many people chose to bid in the room during the sale. This record-setting auction comes on the heels of last week’s successful Fine Jewelry sale, in which Freeman’s set a new company record when the rare Belle Epoque fancy vivid yellow diamond pendant by J.E. Caldwell and Co. sold for $760,000.

“Freeman’s is proud to have been entrusted with so many extraordinary pieces this season,” Chairman, Alasdair Nichol, commented. “We take great pride in the fact that our consignors can rest assured that no effort is being spared in achieving the best possible sales results for them.  This was clearly evident in our most recent Jewelry and Modern & Contemporary Art sales, both of which saw record setting prices.   There is a real buzz about Freeman’s at present and we are looking forward to our next auctions.”

Freeman’s next Modern & Contemporary Art auction will be held in May 2018. Consignments of suitable works or collections are always welcome.  

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