If a photograph is worth 1,000 words, then Millea Bros.’ Spring Select Auction May 17–19 is worth a book. Boasting over 1,000 lots, all with compelling stories of their own, the auction showcased three estates, featuring a large selection from the late gallerist Ileana Sonnabend’s art photography collection, passed down to her daughter, Nina Castelli Sundell, a curator and scholar until her death in 2014; 1960s–1970s American Modern art from the estate of Jacob and Marian Javits; and large-scale European and American contemporary art from the estate of venture capitalist Pentti Kouri.
“We were very pleased with how the auction performed all three days,” said Mark Millea. “Photography did especially well, anchored by the Sonnabend provenance. The Javits offerings were well received and we were excited to see strong interest in good, traditional antiques among the European art and antiques offered in the final session.”
As expected, photography and art performed well in the three-day sale, led by a photo portfolio of David Hockney works, having 20 chromogenic prints, that fetched $75,000, well over its $10,000-15,000 estimate. The 1976 portfolio was published by Editions Sonnabend and and came out of the collection of Ileana Sonnabend. A day before the auction kicked off, a new world auction record for a Hockney painting was set at $28 million at Sotheby’s and with the recent Hockney exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, interest was at an all-time high. “I can’t say for sure they helped fuel interest to our sale but we did see a tremendous amount of interest in the Hockney works,” Millea said.
Photograph portfolios continued to perform robustly with a book of 12 Robert Rauschenberg gelatin silver prints, also Sonnabend Editions, New York, 1979, which made $11,750. Single photographs saw a Cecil Beaton gelatin silver print, “Nancy and Baba Beaton,” 1924, Sonnabend collection, go out at $8,750.
Fine art was spread out over all three days and proved equally strong on the auction block, including a Dimitri Krasnopevtsev, oil on Masonite painting, “Still Life II,” 1974, 24 by 24 inches, Javits estate; and an Otto Zitko oilstick on aluminum panel painting, 118 by 86 ½ inches, estate of Pentti Kouri, New York City. Each painting brought $21,250.
The first session kicked off with a fine grouping of Asian art, including a large Qianlong blue and white floral vase, Qing dynasty, 19 inches tall with a 12-inch diameter, from the Javits estate, bringing $27,500, over four times its high estimate; a Chinese Jian ware glazed bowl, possibly Song dynasty, 3 inches tall, that outstripped its $400-600 estimate to earn $20,000 and a Chinese carved jade moon flask, Qing dynasty, in pale celadon jade carved with blossoming trees and Chinese poem, 7 inches tall, $18,750.
Another first day highlight was a pair of pre-Columbian Nayarit matched sitting figures, circa 200 BCE--200 CE, Mexico, in red and white painted terracotta, 13 inches tall, which realized $18,750, ten times over estimate. Mounted on a painted wood stand, the piece came from the Javits estate and retained an Andre Emmerich label.
Wrapping up the sale on its final day was a mix of fine items from around the globe — an Italian specimen marble top on table base, 17th/18th Century, Italy, mixed marble, porphyry and semi-precious stone top with micromosaic corner rosettes, 17 ½ inches all, that achieved $43,750, and an Erard, Paris, grand piano, 19th Century, serial # 94113, in the Louis XIV style, going for $12,500.
Rounding out the auction were a colorful G. Nardi 18K gold mounted Macaw brooch, circa 1950s, in the Venetian style, with a macaw perched on a diamond-set branch, multi colored gem feathers including diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies, that earned $11,875 and a pair of Continental bronze mounted bottles, 19th Century, 12 inches tall, that took $9,375.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
Millea Bros is at 607 Myrtle Avenue. Preview is by appointment. For more information, www.milleabros.com or 973-377-1500.
607 Myrtle Avenue
About Millea Bros.
Millea Bros. Ltd. is the culmination of Michael and Mark Millea's fifteen years of experience in the auction business. While conducting countless appraisals and managing the sale of thousands of objects, the brothers gained comprehensive knowledge of the antiques and collectibles market. The company is grounded in their mutual love of art and their desire to provide their clients with high-quality property and unmatched personal attention.