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Palm Beach Modern hits milestone with first million-dollar-plus auction of modern art and design
Angel Botello sculpture, ‘Girl Standing with Umbrella,’ $57,500. All images courtesy of Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA.- On May 14, Palm Beach Modern Auctions celebrated its first million-dollar-plus single-day auction. The buoyant result was proof that the demand for superior-quality modern design, art and access of modern design, art and accessories is stronger than ever and global in reach.

More than 125 in-house bidders battled 1,600+ online bidders from 16 countries, while five phone lines buzzed with activity. The final tally at the end of the day was $1,062,500 (all prices quoted include 25% buyer’s premium) for 550 lots.

“It was a terrific sale. We had a high sell-through rate, new records were set, and we learned – to our great satisfaction – that we attract serious buyers for even niche categories in the modern-design spectrum,” said Palm Beach Modern’s auctioneer and co-owner Rico Baca.

Finishing at the top of prices realized, a massive 41-inch-tall figural bronze by Angel Botello (Puerto Rican, 1913-1986) titled Girl Standing with Umbrella was accompanied by a copy of an invoice from Galeria Botello Inc. Against pre-sale expectations of $15,000-$25,000, it was aggressively pursued to $57,500. A monumental Roberto Fantini (b. 1960-) horse sculpture with provenance from Galerie Vivendi in Paris trotted off to a new owner for $5,500; while a pair of Swiss sculptural metal andirons, after Diego Giacometti, fired up a winning bid of $12,500.

An Alex Katz (American, b. 1927-) monograph titled Good Morning Study III was signed and dated 2007, and had a trail of provenance that could be traced back to the artist himself. The 36 by 48-inch waterscape finished just shy of its high estimate, at $47,500.

Also finishing well in the money was a 1970s Larry Poons (b. 1937-) acrylic-on-canvas that retained several important gallery labels on verso. The 88 by 37.25-inch (sight) original artwork reached the high end of its estimate range, garnering $31,250.

Number 14 from a Pace edition of 80, a 1981 Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) serigraph scroll measuring 228 inches wide came with its handsome original wood box. Titled Parcours, it was initialed and numbered by the artist and printed in Paris. It earned $10,000 – a price that surpassed any achieved by major international auction houses for other serigraphs from the limited-edition series.

PBMA’s May 14 auction was a new testing ground for Picasso pottery from the Ramie studios of France. Five pieces were offered from the Estate of Dr. Samuel L. Scher, and each found the auction atmosphere to be quite competitive. Two differently painted Chouette (wood owl) vessels flew in for the event, one selling for $23,750 and the other for $22,500. A slender 12-inch Femme pitcher realized $11,875.

“We were really pleased with the results on the Picasso pottery, and so was the consignor,” said Baca. “Two galleries from France were bidding over the phone along with many others online, but in spite of the competition, two of the pieces sold in-house to buyers from our own back yard – the Palm Beaches. They have the money, and they’re very astute when it comes to purchasing art. You have to work hard to beat them.”

Modern furniture highlights included a pair of Jacques Adnet folding chairs, which sold for a record $10,625; and a Vladimir Kagan Contour loveseat, $7,500. A console created by Christian Astuguevielle – a relatively obscure designer – made $9,375. “That, too, was a record price,” Baca noted.

As always, the PBMA team rolled out the red carpet and made sure every guest was comfortable and well fed. There was complimentary valet parking, a catered luncheon with a Spanish theme, and even a massage therapist on hand from 4-7 p.m. to relax bidders who had traveled long distances to attend the event.

“We enjoy being good hosts,” said Baca, referring to himself and co-owner Wade Terwilliger. “Our customers tell us they really look forward to our auctions, not only for the wonderful selection of modern design but also because they can socialize with friends, enjoy an afternoon out and never feel pressured. They buy because they love what we sell.”

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