On May 15th the Chaim Gross collection of African and Oceanic was offered at Sothebys in New York. Of the 81 lots 16 failed to sell. For many Chaim Gross, having begun to collect in the early 1930's, was the last of , as Sothebys noted, "the first generation" of African collectors. A noted American sculptor, Chaim was aided in his collecting by Frank Crowninshield, the editor of Vanity Fair magazine in New York. Some might say that this was a sale with aesthetics versus pedigree with the later prevailing. Critics looked at this sale as being uneven and hyped beyond what the art itself justified. Certainly this negative assessment is somewhat tempered by the superb kneeling Senufo figure selling for $758,500 and the Mbaka figure on the cover sailing over the pre-sale estimate of $600,000 and ending up at $1,258,500. For me the sleeper in the sale was the Yaka mask pictured in Lot 56 and estimated between $6,000 and $9,000. Apparently some buyers agreed driving the price to $22,500. Considering the power, obvious age, and pedigree, i think it is worth more. But in the end it was a good morning for Sothebys grossing almost 5 million dollars.
In the May 20th American Indian sale of 226 lots 85 failed to sell, a high buy in rate of 38%. There were some stellar pieces that did quite well The pair of Cheyenne parfleches featured in Gaylord Torrence "bible" on the topic did very well bringing in $116,500. Morton and Estelle Sosland's Kwakiutl sun mask exceeded the high estimate and sold for $266,500. The Barry Goldwater pony beaded blanket strip he donated to the Smoki Museum in Prescott failed to sell at the low estimate of $100,000. Some experts felt the early date of 1830's being tossed around was a bit early for this piece. Sothebys claimed that only four are known, so it will be interesting to see where this piece will finally end up. The Dat so la lee basket (ht. 6 1/4") was estimated to sell between $175,000 and $225,000 but also failed to meet the reserve. Some might attribute this failure to the limited number of buyers at this level, the size of the basket, the sluggish economy, and probably all the above. The total sales with commissions realized $2,681,694. Not bad even with the high buy in.