Steve Slotin frequently employs a catchphrase to describe the disparate items in Slotin Folk Art Auctions twice-a-year Self-Taught Masterpiece Sales: The Strange, The Unusual, The Vanishing America! Its a catchy way to try to lasso the wide and wild variety of items that the auctions feature. But as time goes by, the list of folky things that find their way into the sales just gets longer. Maybe the broad slogan isnt broad enough.
Self-taught art has always been at the center of Slotin Folk Art sales, but here are just some of the kinds of art that also are included among the 769 lots in its Spring Self-Taught Art Masterpiece Sale, April 23-24, 2022: anonymous, circus, flash tattoo, patriotic, Inuit, antique quilts, contemporary quilts, samplers, photography, folk pottery, hand-lettered signs, trade signs, folk sculpture, Indian totems, early weathervanes, carved carousel figures, vernacular furniture, Haitian flags, Oaxacan figures, Huichol Indian yarn paintings . . .
Suffice it to say that there are always new lanes being added on the Slotin Folk Art expressway.
Its all getting into one big gumbo of collecting, Slotin says with obvious approval. And why shouldnt the auctioneer like the gumbo: Last Novembers Fall Self-Taught Art Masterpiece Sale rang up sales of $4.5 million (counting buyers premium), among Slotins highest grosses in nearly three decades of auctioneering.
Folk art has been having a moment, so its possible that Slotin Folk Art Auction will top that.
There are other reasons, too: By being Americas longest and lead auctioneers representing the folk art niche, Steve and his wife and co-owner Amy are able to attract the best consignments. When blue-chip pieces become available, Steve jumps into a vehicle sized to fit the bounty and off he goes, no matter the distance.
As a result, the two-day spring sale offers quality and quantity.
Two pieces Slotin expects to perform exceptionally well are prime landscapes by Chicago artist Joseph Yoakum, Sao Lourenco Mtn. Range Near Reo de Janeire Brazil (1964, 26.5 w x 19.5 h) and Alpha of Brooks Range Near Wiseman, Alaska U.S.A. (1970, 19 w x 12 h). Both drawings are executed in pastel, ink and colored pencil on paper, and each is estimated at $10,000-$20,000.
Steve Slotin figures interest will be high for Yoakum (1891-1972) -- who began drawing his memories at age 71 -- in the wake of a recent Museum of Modern Art exhibition of his work, What I Saw.
Similarly, a heightened response met work by Nellie Mae Rowe in last Novembers Self-Taught Art Masterpiece Sale while the first major exhibition of the Vinings, Georgia, folk artist in more than 20 years, at Atlantas High Museum of Art, was generating national media coverage. One of five works in that sale by Rowe (1900-1982), Dog on Roof With Birds, established an auction record for the artist at $30,000.
In the spring catalog, Slotin presents two pages of works by Rowe immediately before the Yoakums, clearly hoping to spark some synergy. Orange Rooster (paint, crayon, colored pencil and marker on paper, 17 w x 14 h) commands the highest estimate of the six Rowe drawings at $15,000-$20,000.
It cant hurt that the touring "Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe" is reaching new folk art fans in a different part of the country, currently at the Springfield Museum of Art in Springfield, Ohio.
Indeed, there has been gradually building collector interest in 20th century African American female artists from the South, not just in the long-established Clementine Hunter of Louisiana, represented by eight lots in the spring sale, but also Minnie Evans of North Carolina (two paintings), Sister Gertrude Morgan of Alabama-Louisiana and Mary T. Smith of Mississippi (four paintings each).
If youre a serious self-taught art collector, Steve Slotin says, the Black female artists of the South have got to be represented in your collection so that its well-rounded.
The Rev. Howard Finster, the rural Northwest Georgia creator whose works are showcased in the High Museums permanent collection and who is a Slotin bidder favorite, is well represented. The prize among his 24 lots appears to be Our Little Church, a 1978 painting in a trademark artist-made wood-burned frame. In addition to a dominant cross filled with a Finster hand-lettered message, there is a rendering of Violet Hill Church, where, Finster said, he was saved at age 13. Its estimated at $10,000-$20,000.
Following Slotins third Southern Folk & Art Pottery Extravaganza sale in February, the 41 lots of folk pottery that will begin April 23 should have pottery collectors in the hunt. Rare pots likely to be targeted include a monumental 6-to-8-gallon face jug by B.B. Craig and Lanier Meaders Jack O Lantern Devil Face Jug. Each is estimated at $3,000-$5,000.
Slotin Folk Art Auctions Spring Self-Taught Art Masterpiece Sale will be held online via LiveAuctioneers.com, with phone and absentee bidding available.
(Story by Howard Pousner)