Saturday - 25 October 2014

The way the wind is blowing…

30 October 2006Written by ATG Reporter

AMERICAN folk art moved into new territory at Sotheby’s New York on October 6 when this life-size Indian chief weathervane with a rich verdigris patina sold for $5.2m/£2.9m (plus 20/12% buyer’s premium).

That folk art, once the poor relation of 'fine' furniture, could realize such a sum was cited as a significant moment by prominent members of the American trade who have seen prices rise steadily for such vernacular masterpieces.

The moulded copper weathervane, possibly made by the J.L. Mott Iron Works of New York and Chicago, c.1900, was part of the collection of American antiques assembled by Josephine and Walter Buhl Ford II of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. They had bought it in 1971 for a price believed to be under $5000. At the time its imposing size, some 5ft 2in wide by 5ft 7in high (1.57 x 1,70m) was deemed a handicap.

Sotheby's folk art specialist Nancy Druckman estimated the weathervane, then still in situ on the roof of the Fords home, at $100,000-150,000 but there was already speculation before the sale that the folk art record - the $4.3m paid for an Edward Hicks' Peaceable Kingdom at Christie's in January 1999 - might be broken.

Only the previous month, a steam locomotive weathervane (acquired at Skinner in 1987 for $185,000) had reappeared at Northeast Auctions in New Hampshire to sell at a record $1.1m. The consensus was that the chief was bigger and better by some distance.

Seven bidders were in the running until around $3.5m before two participants - one on the telephone and New York collector Jerry Lauren in the room - completed the bidding. Mr Lauren, who is executive vice president of men's design at Polo Ralph Lauren, was the victor.

He described his purchase to reporters as "a piece of great art [and] the most perfect weathervane I've ever seen."

By Roland Arkell

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