Keno Auctions Winter Sale Achieves $3.45 Million for Masterworks From The 18th to 20th Century

  • NEW YORK, New York
  • /
  • February 03, 2015

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Potter-Crouch-Jordan 18th century Chippendale Tea Table
Keno Auctions

Keno Auctions Winter Sale provided a dramatic conclusion of Americana Week in New York. The sale, which comprised only 13 lots, totaled an impressive $3,456,500.00 with a 92 percent sell rate by lot. John Nye of Nye & Co. kindly served as the auctioneer while President, Leigh Keno was on the phone throughout the sale with clients.

Lot 1 was a newly discovered Chippendale tea table signed by the important Philadelphia cabinetmaker Henry Cliffton that brought $1,895,500, nearly quadrupling the pre-sale low estimate. Keno stated, “The table is truly a tour de force of pre-revolutionary rococo design and carving in Philadelphia. I recall my excitement when I discovered that the signature “Henry…” , in chalk on the underside of the top was that of Henry Cliffton, famous for having signed and dated the earliest example of Rococo furniture extant—a high chest at Colonial Williamsburg. The table is a rosetta stone of American furniture that sheds light on some of the world’s most famous 18th century creations by some of the best carvers in Colonial America”. Known as the Potter-Crouch-Jordan Family tea table, it has descended in the family of the original owners for over 250 years and remarkably, retains its original finish. Keno noted that “of the four factors that can be used to evaluate a scalloped-top Philadelphia tea table - quality, rarity, condition and provenance – this example ranks at the very top, representing the apogee of Philadelphia Rococo craftsmanship.”

After spirited bidding in the room, phones and internet, a 1973 Copper and Brass S.621 Untitled, Hanging, Six-Lobed Multi-layered interlocking forms with a sphere in the third lobe sculpture by Ruth Asawa (American, 1926-1913) brought $965,000—almost four times its high estimate.  “The result for the Asawa is a new record for an example dating to the 1970’s as well as world record for any Asawa work under 80 inches in height.  An important aspect of this astonishing work is that the artist was videotaped in Robert Snyder’s 1973 documentary Ruth Asawa: Of Forms And Growth.  In the film, she describes the labor-intensive process involved in bringing to life her unique creations, a clip of which can be found on the Keno Auctions website.  Snyder has stated that the video captures, “…the intensity and sensitivity that pervades her life…we experience her humanness, and her views on art, growth and life itself.”   Her works, each unique, are three dimensional drawings in air and by their very existence inspire us to redefine negative space, its relationship with the object itself and with the viewer. 

S.621 Untitled, Hanging, Six-Lobed Multi-layered interlocking forms with a sphere in the third lobe sculpture by Ruth Asawa
Keno Auctions

The phone lines were also full for two Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) works in the sale. A diminutive sheet metal, brass and wire 1968 standing mobile, “Pig’s Tail”, soared above its estimate of $50- 100,000 to bring $365,000, while a brightly colored gouache, “Spotted Orb and Pyramids” from 1956, made $78,750. Commented Keno “We had bidders from all over the world, including Australia. The market for great quality modern and contemporary art with strong provenance is extremely robust. The high number of active internet and telephone bidders in this sale from around the world was witness to this fact.”

Keno Auctions also offered a number of rare documents. “We were pleased to work with leading document expert Seth Kaller in offering a select collection of rare documents,” Keno stated. “We have worked with Seth before, and he always has great pieces of American history.” Two rare 1789 issues of the New York Gazette of the United States newspaper did especially well, including $43,750 for the earliest obtainable printing of the Bill of Rights and $36,250 for Washington’s first presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation. A unique 1769 Sons of Liberty document capturing patriotic toasts for the fourth anniversary of Boston’s Stamp Act Riot made $15,000.

Keno was very pleased with the results. “Our approach for the Winter Sale is a first for Keno Auctions; the Rococo table produced by Henry Cliffton circa 1755 was no less avant-garde in its day than the 1969 standing mobile by Philadelphia-born Calder or the 1973 hanging sculpture by California-born Asawa. These select pieces are not only beautiful but increasingly valuable assets. We look forward to another masterworks sale, and have already started planning.
All prices include buyer’s premium. For more information about the sale, please contact Leigh Keno or Seth Kaller.

About Leigh Keno
Leigh Keno is founder and president of Keno Auctions. During his nearly 40 years in the auction business and as a dealer, he has helped build some of the top institutional and private collections of paintings, furniture, and decorative arts in the world. His specialties range from 18th Century American furniture and Folk art to modern paintings and sculpture and rare historic automobiles from the 1930’s through the 1980’s.

Alexander Calder, “Spotted Orb and Pyramids” 1956
Keno Auctions

About Seth Kaller
Seth Kaller is a leading expert in acquiring, authenticating, and appraising rare historic documents and artifacts. Kaller has built museum-quality collections for individuals and institutions, as well as legacy collections for philanthropists. He has handled important manuscripts, documents, and rare books ranging from the Declaration of Independence to The Emancipation Proclamation; and Robert E. Lee’s farewell to his troops.

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