World Record for Ceramicist Peter Voulkos Broken at Cowans + Clark + DelVecchio Modern and Contemporary Ceramics Auction

  • CHICAGO, Illinois
  • /
  • November 08, 2010

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Gash by Peter Voulkos Sells for a Record $105,750
Cowan's Auctions, Cincinnati, Ohio
Vesuvius by Christine McHorse brings $17,625
Cowan's Auctions, Cincinnati, Ohio
Ghost Box by Jim Melchert sold for $26,438
Cowan's Auctions, Cincinnati, Ohio

Most Important Piece to be offered in a Decade Sells for Six Figures.

With a room full of bidders at Chicago’s Navy Pier, and phones busy for nearly every lot, the inaugural Cowans + Clark + DelVecchio Modern and Contemporary Ceramics Auction radiated palpable energy throughout the entire 84-lot sale.  The auction totaled $500,000, with over 80 bidders from six countries participating.

“The auction greatly exceeded our expectations,” commented Garth Clark, who, along with Mark Del Vecchio, partnered with Auctioneer Wes Cowan to produce the auction.  “Prices were on average higher than previous auction records.  We were thrilled to created wide margins for ceramics by Peter Voulkos, Jim Melchert, and Christine McHorse.”

Indeed, a Stoneware Stack Pot by Peter Voulkos (1924-2002, USA), titled Gash, was the highest-selling lot in the auction, breaking a world record for the artist’s ceramics with a selling price of $105,750.  The piece was estimated to sell for $50,000/90,000.  Voulkos is world-renowned for his abstract expressionist ceramic sculptures; he was instrumental in moving ceramics from functional to purely artistic forms in the 1950s. Clark noted that Gash is the most significant Voulkos to come to auction in over a decade.  

Far exceeding its $7/9,000 estimate, Ghost Box by Jim Melchert (b. 1930, Ohio) soared to $26,440 thanks to competing bidders on the phone and floor.  The significant piece was exhibited at Abstract Expressionist Ceramics, Art Gallery of the University of California, and Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, in 1966.

Christine Nofchissey McHorse’s, Vesuvius, an abstract ceramic from 2002, also garnered spirited bidding.  The most recent piece by McHorse (b.1948, USA) to come to public auction, it sold for $17,625, exceeding its $12,000/15,000 estimate.  McHorse, a resident of Sante Fe, is one of the Southwest’s most adventurous and important abstract ceramists. The pot is made from a continuous coil with no cutting or joining.

Betty Woodman’s His and Hers vases from 2002 realized $23,500, within the lot’s $20,000/30,000 estimate.  Woodman (b. 1930, USA) was represented by several lots in the auction; her Iraklian Shelf Vase sold for $9,988, also within its $9,500/12,000 estimate.  

Several works by Lucie Rie were offered, highlighted by a Blue Spotted Stoneware Bowl that brought $11,750, within its $10,000/12,000 estimate.  

“This was an important and successful first step towards establishing a true secondary market for modern and contemporary ceramics,” noted Del Vecchio.

“Whatever we did today, we established market prices for artists whose works had never been seen in public.  I couldn’t be happier with the auction results.  We knew it was a risk but we were ambitious, and it paid off,” added Cowan.

The auction, whose presence at Navy Pier alongside SOFA Chicago made waves in the press, was deemed to be a successful venture by Mark Lyman, President of the Art Fair Company who produces SOFA.  “I am very pleased with the success of the auction and that the dealers of ceramics at the SOFA fair and elsewhere have another reason to be confident in the value of the art they represent.”   

Donna Schneier, a dealer at SOFA and the most vocal opponent to the auction, was in fact a bidder in the sale, and commented while paying for her merchandise, “I always support auctions.”  

The first of its kind, the Auction brought to the international art market over 80 works by the most important 20th-century ceramic artists in the field.  
Cowans + Clark + DelVecchio plan to hold the next series of Modern and Contemporary Ceramics auctions in the Spring of 2011. 

Emily Everhart
Cowan's Auctions

6270 Este Ave
Cincinnati, Ohio
About Cowans+Clark+DelVecchio

About Cowan’s Auctions, Inc. As one of the nation’s leading auction houses with sales approaching $20 million, Cowan’s has been helping individuals and institutions build important collections for more than a decade. The company’s four divisions of American History, American Indian and Western Art, American and European Fine and Decorative Art, and Historic Firearms & Early Militaria hold semi-annual cataloged sales that routinely set records for rare offerings. Through its extensive mailing list of more than 35,000 collectors, dealers and institutional clients, each Cowan’s auction typically attracts more than 1,000 bidders from across the globe. To learn more about Cowan’s visit our website at Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio founded Garth Clark Gallery in Los Angeles in 1981 and opened a second space in New York in 1983 at 24 West 57th Street. They were soon established as the preeminent international dealers in 20th century ceramics and have organized eight major international symposia on ceramic history and criticism, published numerous books and catalogues and received a slew of prestigious awards, both lifetime achievement and honorary doctorates. In addition Clark was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Art, London and was the only practicing dealer to receive the College Art Association’s Mather Award for distinguished achievement in art journalism. They now live in Santa Fe, work as private dealers and are in the process of organizing two traveling exhibitions, Christine Nofchissey McHorse and Diego Romero. Clark is finishing two more books (his 52nd and 53rd), Lucio Fontana Ceramics and Homage To R. Mutt: Writing on Marcel Duchamp's Fountain since 1917. For more information about Clark+DelVecchio

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