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What is Still Killing It? Contemporary and Modern Art

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

Trendy is getting quite spendy. I continue to be amazed by contemporary and modern art values. Art post-1950 and in that modernist style seems to be unstoppable. In a recently conducted Arizona auction, a sale featured a few fine examples of modern art by Harry Bertoia, Bernard Buffet and George Rodrigue. I was curious to see what the market would bear at a well-publicized public local auction. You will see pieces like these turn up in the major auction houses all over the world, but with the advent of social media and online marketing, these classes of items are showing up more regionally as in this case.

I understand that these artists are not household names like Dali, Picasso and Chagall, but in the art collector’s world, they are fairly well known. Harry Bertoia, was an Italian-American artist, sculptor and modern furniture designer born in 1915. His sculptures can be found all over the world, and many of his furniture designs are still in production today. The Scottsdale auction house featured a sound sculpture that stood approximately 55 inches tall. It was an odd form constructed of brass and melt-coated copper. Produced in 1956, it created quite a lot of buzz prior to the sale. People flew into town to inspect it and we received many phone calls prior to the sale. The bidding was furious, opening at $50,000, and by the time it was said and done, a phone bidder won the piece for $120,000, eclipsing the $70,000 to $90,000 pre-auction estimate.

Then there is George Rodrigue, who is famous for his depictions of the Blue Dog. His prices seem to be on an upward climb since his death in 2013. Cliché as it may be, it’s not often true that an artist’s death makes the price go up. It’s true it happens in certain cases, but it is not as common as people believe. Back to the Blue Dog. This wonderful example sold for $42,500 which turned out to be a good investment for the folks who had recently purchased it for $25,000 in the artist’s gallery.

Now, one of the surprises was the Bernard Buffet. It was an excellent still life example, featuring a mandolin, fruit and tableware. Estimated to be worth between $20,000 and $30,000 before the sale, the final bid came in at $57,500. And this seems to be the artist’s trend for the past few years. Commanding top dollar in its style and genre.

I am quite pleased to report to you that there is good news in the resale world in this genre. I often feel like the messenger, who gets shot often. I love this auction world and antique business. It’s always an adventure and I hope I have other market busters to report in the future.

Stay informed watching my hit new YouTube Series, Last Week at the Auction. We just wrapped Season 1 and as you will see, we started low budget and got better each episode as we learned how to use the iphone and editing software. I hope you love it !


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