Toomey & Co. Auctioneers sees intense bidding and elevated prices in first two sales of 2021

Art Daily
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Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller, ESU-421-C storage unit. Sold for $13,750.
Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller, ESU-421-C storage unit. Sold for $13,750.

OAK PARK, IL.-Toomey & Co. Auctioneers has started 2021 with two high performing sales. Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art on February 25 and Fine Art + Furniture & Decorative Arts on March 14 combined for a 98% sell-through rate and $1.72 million in total prices realized.

With people spending considerable time at home and unable to travel freely to art and design conferences, shows, and exhibits during the pandemic, participation in the auction industry has surged and increasingly gone virtual, continuing a trend that had already been underway. Although Toomey & Co. Auctioneers has been based in Oak Park since 1982 and holding auctions since 1987, the current level of bidder interest and robust prices have not been seen in some time.

“Our loyal base of consignors and buyers has allowed us to conduct successful auctions for well over three decades,” said President John Toomey, “but the strong results that we have been getting in all categories are driven by the fact that many new bidders are entering the market. With each sale, we have more and more people actively engaged online.”

Highlights of Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art on February 25

Among the notable art results on February 25 were two magic realist works: Austrian Arik Brauer’s watercolor, Fenster (Window), 1965, which sold for $17,500, nearly three times its high estimate, and former Disney animator Eyvind Earle’s fantasy landscape, which realized $9,750. Chicago artists were well represented, such as Ed Paschke, with a motorcycle engine detail painting, Speed Freak, 1969 ($10,000), and Outsider artist Wesley Willis, with multiple ballpoint drawings (highest $3,125). Various metal sculptures from Harry and Val Bertoia were auctioned (highest $12,350) as well as a multicolored silkscreen on PVC tower by Israeli artist Yaacov Agam ($8,450).

Modern design included a pair of nickel-plated brass Man and Woman head sculptures by Franz Hagenauer that achieved $16,250 and a Sculpted Bronze console table and cabinet by Paul Evans that sold for $13,750. The sale also featured a large ESU storage cabinet ($13,750) by mid-century American design icons Charles and Ray Eames as well as a set of 10 armchairs ($13,000) by Denmark’s Hans Wegner from Harvard Medical School. Other prominent woodworking examples were a George Nakashima walnut coffee table ($12,350) and a Pierre Jeanneret Easy Armchair in teak and cane ($6,500). Italian design was likewise in demand, with results including: Lella and Massimo Vignelli’s pair of torchieres ($14,300), Gaetano Pesce’s striped UP5 lounge chair and UP6 ottoman ($11,050), and Fulvio Bianconi’s Spicchi tri-color glass vase ($7,800).

Highlights of Fine Art + Furniture & Decorative Arts on March 14

French artwork drew significant interest on March 14 as post-impressionist Henri Martin’s pointillist portrait, Femme au Fleurs (Woman with Flowers), circa 1903, realized $40,625 and Ernest Guérin’s Brittany triptych landscape sold for $7,150. WPA-era artists from Chicago attracted a great deal of attention and lots achieved prices several times their high estimates, such as a Louise Dunn Yochim oil on canvas showing the lakefront in 1937 ($11,250) and a Charles Turzak woodblock print, South of the Loop, circa 1934 ($3,125). Midwestern Regionalist Grant Wood, of American Gothic fame, had two lithographs in the auction that together sold for $8,287. Additional printmakers of note with works in the auction were Gustave Baumann (highest $8,450) and Frances Hammell Gearhart (highest $7,800).

Early 20th century design boasted lighting from Tiffany Studios, such as a Turtleback table lamp ($20,800) and six-light chandelier ($16,250). Louis Comfort Tiffany also had several vases in the sale, led by a porcelain example with mushrooms ($10,625) and a floriform Favrile glass vase ($10,000). Metalwork included a Gorham Mfg. Co. Aesthetic Movement punch bowl in silver and copper with grape cluster handles, which realized $23,750, and a Dirk van Erp copper jardiniere, which sold for $10,000. American Arts & Crafts leader Gustav Stickley had some distinctive lots in the sale, in particular, an early piano bench ($11,250), a chest of drawers ($8,125), and a gong with stand ($6,250). Arts & Crafts pottery from various makers was also on offer, with two standouts being a Teco cut flower vase by William J. Dodd ($5,625) and a Rookwood Sea Green example with catfish by Fred Rothenbusch ($4,375).

Upcoming Auctions and Consignments

Toomey & Co. Auctioneers is now preparing for the following upcoming sales: Interiors on April 21 & 22; Modern Design + Post-War & Contemporary Art on May 20; Fine Art + Furniture & Decorative Arts on June 6; Keramics & Rookwood: American & European Art Pottery on June 17; and Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art on August 12.

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