Sunday, May 20, 2018
Arts

Fine art auction offers 360 works

BY LENNIE BENNETT

Times Art Critic

Here's a stretch-and-grow idea for your weekend: attend an art auction.

The big one right now will be Sunday at Myers Fine Art in St. Petersburg, where more than 360 paintings and works on paper from the 17th to the early 20th centuries will go on the block.

The group is an interesting one: A number are from New York artists' private reserves, meaning they were kept by the artists and never sold. Some were gifts to friends, such as Milton Avery's Christmas card. Some are from estates of late artists. So most are considered fresh-to-market, since they were bought directly from estates by Myers owner Mike Myers and his wife, Mary Dowd, or are consigned by heirs. They have been assembling the collection for about five years.

The couple hold a number of auctions every year that can include antique furniture, jewelry and decorative objects, usually with a theme such as Americana. Both have decades of experience in the business as generalists, as well as training in the arts. They sell their inventory only through auctions.

If you're new to auctions, you might think they are intimidating and pressure-filled. They're not. The typical media depictions of them as boisterous events during which a casual gesture with your paddle is mistaken for an irrevocable bid are greatly exaggerated. (If it happens, just shake your head and your paddle, and the auctioneer will return to the previous bid.)

But they are a lot of fun and can even be exhilarating if you get into an auction's spirit of immediate gratification and polite competition. Myers and Dowd both say there's no particular strategy to bidding except to set a firm limit for yourself on spending before going in.

Even more important is knowing what's in the auction. Going to the preview is essential if you're interested in bidding. You can see the art, compare it with other works, ask questions (don't be shy) and then go home and get on eBay to compare what similar items are selling for. Study the catalog, available at the auction house or on its website, myersfineart.com. The site contains information about each piece of art, the artist and provenance (its ownership history, though in the case of these works, the histories are very short) and the estimated amount it will sell for, which is based on the auction house's research.

The estimates for this group range from several hundred dollars to thousands. But, as Dowd says, there are always surprises, both high and low, and often bargains are there, especially if you stay to the end, when many bidders have left. Bidding usually starts at one-half of the estimate, but Myers bumps it lower if there are no takers. Myers guarantees every work as authentic.

One painting that has caused particular interest is Howard Gardiner Cushing's portrait of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, founder of the Whitney Museum of Modern Art. In it she wears a costume designed by Leonard Bakst, similar to one she wore when she posed for another portrait by John Singer Sargent. It has a real insider history, having been purchased from Whitney's friend by the wife of architect William Delano, another friend of Whitney's. Whitney commissioned Delano to design a museum gallery in Cushing's honor after his death.

There are about 360 lots (individual items) in this auction, but Myers keeps things going at a brisk pace, usually getting through 70 lots in an hour. If you're interested in particular works, the catalog lists the order of the offerings.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8293.

 
Comments
St. Pete artist holding funeral for 600 block’s vanished art galleries on Sunday

St. Pete artist holding funeral for 600 block’s vanished art galleries on Sunday

Local artist Boo Ehrsam remembers seeing the photo in the news years ago. "It was this dark, empty street, and an egret flying away," she said. "The caption read, ‘Will the last one to leave St. Pete please turn out the lights.’ " That ...
Published: 05/18/18
The Dia de Los Muertos exhibition at Florida CraftArt is full of life and color. As it should be.

The Dia de Los Muertos exhibition at Florida CraftArt is full of life and color. As it should be.

As soon as you pass through the paper flower archway to enter the bright pink gallery, it becomes clear that the "Dia de Los Muertos" exhibition at Florida CraftArt is full of life and color. As it should be: The Mexican holiday that honors loved one...
Published: 05/18/18
Deal alert: The Dali Museum offers $10 admission on Friday

Deal alert: The Dali Museum offers $10 admission on Friday

DALÍ DEAL ALERT: NATIONAL MUSEUM DAYFriday is National Museum Day, not to be confused with Free Museum Day, which happens in September. Not as many local institutions participate in this day, except for the Dalí Museum, which will offer $10 admission...
Published: 05/16/18
Groundbreaking artists Larry Bell and Jesus Rafael Soto’s work on display at the Tampa Museum of Art

Groundbreaking artists Larry Bell and Jesus Rafael Soto’s work on display at the Tampa Museum of Art

A new exhibition that opened at the Tampa Museum of Art this week features two of the 20th century’s most innovative artists, Larry Bell and Jesús Rafael Soto."Vapor and Vibration: The Art of Larry Bell and Jesús Rafael Soto" will be the first time ...
Updated one month ago
A Tampa artist made portraits of all 17 Parkland shooting victims

A Tampa artist made portraits of all 17 Parkland shooting victims

TAMPA As the semester comes to a close, University of Tampa art and design students have presented their senior projects. Symone Hall, 21, had another group of students on her mind: the victims of the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Doug...
Updated one month ago