BUFORD, GA.- Slotin Folk Art Auction
's Self-Taught Art Masterpiece Sale on Nov. 14 was one of the auction houses most successful in nearly three decades of conducting sales, with total revenues of $1.48 million.
That is especially remarkable given that Slotin, adjusting to doing business amid the COVID-19 virus, changed from its usual practice of auctioning roughly 1,000 lots in a two-day sale, with bidders overflowing the auction hall, to a 400-lot single-day online auction via Live Auctioneers.
Despite the serious challenges of operating during a pandemic, Masterpiece Sale lots in many cases went for double and triple catalog estimates.
The reason why the sale overall was one of our strongest yet was that the quality of the art we offered was some of the best ever, said Steve Slotin, co-owner and operator of Slotin Folk Art Auction with wife Amy. Not only were they important pieces, but we had a lot of diversity in the sale -- everything from a rare, early and extremely large Howard Finster painting to 25 early vetted pieces in a corporate collection put together 45 years ago by the [influential New York folk art dealer] Phyllis Kind Gallery.
Safety for the small Slotin Auction crew was a major consideration behind narrowing the sale to blue-chip pieces of a number that could be auctioned in one day. But the change also had the important effect, Steve Slotin said, of allowing buyers to focus their attention and really recognize how strong each individual piece was.
The spirited bidding caused the Nov. 14 sale to span 12 hours, with many bidders following online from the first lot to the final gavel. Buyers were not only from all across the U.S., but from all over the world, including Australia, China, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland and Trinidad and Tobago.
In another interesting development, Slotin Auction sold five items to museums and institutions. Typically, such organizations are not as nimble as individual collectors at Slotin sales, requiring board approval on major purchases. Notably, all of those five pieces were by African-American self-taught artists, a Slotin specialty.
· "Four Figures and a Basket in Blue," a work by Bill Traylor, who lived and created on the streets of Montgomery, Alabama, was the auctions top lot. Created in graphite, tempera and conte crayon on found cardboard, the piece fetched $105,000.
· Chelsea Baptist Church, the 1977 Rev. Howard Finster painting believed to be his largest (103.5 inches wide by 44 inches high, with frame), yet one of the least well-known of his early masterworks, brought $51,250. That makes it the second-highest result for a Finster at auction. Centered around the Northwest Georgia church where the preacher-turned-folk-artist ministered from 1950 to 1965, the painting commissioned by Sunday school ladies was numbered 641. Finster went on to create 46,991 individually numbered works in his prodigious career.
· Jo, a carved and dressed doll 38.5 inches tall, created by Calvin and Ruby Black for their Possum Trot roadside attraction in Californias Mojave Desert, sold for $47,500.
· Romance, a painting by William Hawkins, the Kentucky native who became known for cityscapes and fantastic animals after moving as a young man to Dayton, Ohio, went for $36,250.
· Two Sam Doyle narrative paintings on found roofing tin depicting life in St. Helena, S.C., sold for $31,250 and $25,000.
Encouraged by response to November auction, Slotin Folk Art Auction will broaden its offerings in 2021. Dates and themes are: Feb. 13, Southern Folk Pottery; March 13, Americana, African American Decorative Arts, Antique Folk Art; April 24, Spring Self-Taught Art Masterpiece Sale; August (date TBA), Fun Folk Art Sale; and November (date TBA), Fall Self-Taught Art Masterpiece Sale.