SOLD At Slotin: A Medium Size American Flag Sculpture by Ab the Flag Man Fetches $1,200

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Update: The medium size American flag by Ab the Flag Man sold for $1,200.

What you see: An undated piece by American folk artist Ab the Flag Man. It is described as a “Medium Size American Flag.” Slotin Folk Art Auction estimates it at $600 to $900, plus $75 for shipping.

Who is Ab the Flag Man? “He has a real name, but no one ever calls him by it,” says Steve Slotin, of Slotin Folk Art Auction, an auctioneer in Buford, Ga., that specializes in self-taught, outsider, and folk art. Ab the Flag Man was born with the name Roger Lee Ivens in Tennessee in 1964. He picked up the nickname “Abstract” during his school days, after asking his teacher about abstract art. It got shortened to “Ab” by co-workers on construction sites. He traces his interest in flags to the age of seven, when he witnessed the military funeral of his father. The sight of his casket covered with a flag never left him.

How long has Ab the Flag Man been an artist? He quit carpentry in 1995 to make art full-time, but it’s unclear precisely when he began–it could have been the late 1980s or early 1990s. He was discovered in a parking lot in Atlanta’s Virginia-Highland neighborhood, where he had set up alongside another folk artist to sell his works. “Specific dates in folk art are hard to come by. It’s not like he came out of art school and we tracked his progress,” says Slotin. “With Ab, people liked his stuff, and it was immediately popular.”

How prolific is he? “We’ve been doing auctions for 25 years, and since we began, we’ve had a few in each auction,” says Slotin. “There’s got to be a thousand pieces out there.”

Does Ab the Flag Man work alone, or does he have assistants? “That’s the thing with folk artists. There’s no team behind them, and no staff that prepares [materials],” Slotin says. “Typically, it’s all them.”

Wait, are there chair legs in there? “You see furniture legs in a lot of his stuff,” Slotin says. “Furniture legs, blocks, parts of house moldings, discards, it varies. It’s all scraps.”

What are the dimensions of this piece? It’s 35 inches long, 21 inches high, and four inches deep. “It really pops out at you,” Slotin says. “It has a lot of movement to it, like it’s waving at you. Most of his pieces have movement, like they’re waving in the wind.”

What else makes this artwork special? “The great thing about almost all of our artists is they’re untrained and unschooled. They don’t have art school or European influences,” Slotin says. “A kid out of art school, who’s trained on what is and isn’t art, makes art that’s pretty homogenized. With Ab, his background is in construction, and his dad passed away–you see his experience in his work. And no one saw it [Ab’s style of flag-themed art] till he started doing it. That’s what I like. What he’s doing is original.”

How to bid: The medium size American flag is Lot 322 in Slotin Folk Art Auction’s Spring Masterpiece sale, taking place April 29 and 30, 2017 in Buford.

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Text is copyright Sheila Gibson Stoodley. Image is courtesy of Slotin Folk Art Auction.

SOLD: The One-of-a-Kind Mid-Century Model Airplane Soars to $11,070 at Skinner

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Update: The unique 1/12 scale Republic 47D Thunderbolt U-control model airplane fetched $11,070.

What you see: A 1/12 scale Republic 47D Thunderbolt U-control model airplane, built by Ernest Burke of Elmont, Long Island, between 1956 and 1965. It weighs seven and a half pounds, has a wingspan of 43 inches, and measures 36 inches from nose to tail. It features a single cylinder Hassad gasoline-powered engine. Skinner estimates the unique model plane at $6,000 to $8,000.

Who was Ernest Burke? Born in New York City in 1921, he’s best known as a Western artist, having made more than 2,500 paintings and 80 sculptures with frontier themes. His works are in the permanent collections of the Amon Carter Museum of the American Indian, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, and the Crazy Horse Memorial, among others. Burke’s parents recognized his artistic talent early, and supported his pursuits. Model-making was a boyhood hobby. He would scavenge wood from fruit crates from markets around the city. Burke died in 2010.

Have you ever seen anything like this? “No, we haven’t!” says Jonathan Dowling, a specialist in the clocks, watches, and scientific instruments department at Skinner. “Nothing like this–the scale, the detail, nothing like this in other auctions. We haven’t.”

What challenges did Burke face when making this model P-47 plane? “He had to do some serious legwork on trying to find the scale, and drop the scale down,” says Dowling, explaining that Burke wrote to the Republic Aviation Company to obtain blueprints of the World War II-era fighter plane. “He was almost an engineer at heart. He took his time to do research before he even attempted to create this.”

Just how faithful is this 1/12 scale model to the original? “The accuracy is incomprehensible, down to the detail of the cockpit,” Dowling says, noting that Burke worked alone over the course of nine years to complete it. His efforts paid off with a first place prize at a model plane enthusiasts’ meeting in Chicago in 1964. He retired his masterpiece after that, and never flew it again.

Does it still fly? “We have not tested it, but I would not see why it wouldn’t,” says Dowling, while pointing out that the U-control, which is a forerunner to the remote control, is not included in the lot (Burke’s heirs couldn’t find it).

What else makes it special? “I have never seen anything this accurate, this well-preserved, and this off-the-wall odd,” says Dowling. “I saw the pictures, and it didn’t do it for me. When it came through the door, it sparked my interest. They [the heirs] brought it to the lobby and we were all amazed.”

How to bid: Ernest Berke’s Republic 47D Thunderbolt U-control model airplane is lot 414 in the Clocks, Watches, & Scientific Instruments auction at Skinner on April 28, 2017.

How to subscribe to The Hot BidClick the trio of dots at the upper right of this page.

Text is copyright Sheila Gibson Stoodley. Image is courtesy of Skinner.

SOLD: That Splendid 19th Century Fire Company Hat Commands $18,750 at Freeman’s

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Update: The Franklin Fire Company parade hat sold for $18,750.

What you see: A painted and decorated leather and felt parade hat for the Franklin Fire Company, a volunteer fire-fighting company which was active in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It dates to between 1840 and 1860, stands six and a half inches tall, and measures a bit over 13 inches in diameter. Freeman’s estimates it at $8,000 to $12,000.

What was the Franklin Fire Company? It was one of several volunteer fire-fighting companies in pre-Civil War America. “It was kind of a club, but you didn’t just get together as a fraternity–you did something. You saved property, you saved lives. You were heroes,” says Lynda Cain, vice president and department head for American furniture, folk and decorative arts at Freeman’s. “Fires were an everyday terror in 18th and 19th century America. Heating, cooking, and lighting were all hazardous. Volunteer fire-fighters had a hugely important role to play. The company was a great melting pot. You could have laborers, lawyers, and doctors. You were selected by ballot, and not everybody got in.”

Why did someone in the Franklin Fire Company need a parade hat? “This was for special occasions, such as celebrations and competitive events. The hats emphasized their group, their fraternity,” Cain says. “It shows your affiliation. It advertised your fire department, and your membership in it.”

Who in the Franklin Fire Company would have worn this hat? Everyone would have worn matching red parade hats with Franklin’s face on the front. “These guys would have proudly gathered and marched in their groups,” she says, noting that the initials ‘W.G.’ are lettered on the crown of the hat in black and gilded paint. “They had capes, too, but fewer of those survive.”

Who painted the portrait of Benjamin Franklin on the front? We don’t know, but it wasn’t the same artisan who made the hat. “It’s beautifully done,” Cain says, adding that it’s the first hat of its type with a Benjamin Franklin image to come to auction. “This particular hat has Franklin, but others had Washington, or Lafayette, or eagles, or classical figures, or scantily clad ladies in the 19th century sense.”

How rare are fire company parade hats? “I’ve been here 15 years and I’ve had five,” she says. “I love this hat. It’s been cleaned, but it’s in very fine shape. And Philadelphia and Franklin are a perfect pair.”

How to bid: The Franklin Fire Company parade hat is lot 148 in the American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts sale at Freeman’s in Philadelphia on April 26, 2017.

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Text is copyright Sheila Gibson Stoodley. Image is courtesy of Freeman’s.

SOLD: The Thousand-Year-Old Astrolabe at Sotheby’s London Fetched More Than $781,000

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Update: The 11th century astrolabe sold for more than $781,000.

What you see: A rare Umayyad-era brass astrolabe, signed by Muhammad ibn al-Saffar and dated in Western Abjad 411 AH (1020 AD). It is the earliest known dated astrolabe from Muslim Spain. It comes from a French collection. Sotheby’s estimates it at £300,000 to £500,000, or $372,900 to $621,000.

What is an astrolabe? “Basically, it’s an ancient astronomical computer,” says Benedict Carter, head of auction sales of Middle East and Indian art at Sotheby’s. “It’s a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional celestial sphere. Typical uses were for finding the time during the day or night, and figuring out the times of sunrise or sunset.”

What makes this astrolabe special? “It’s a thousand-year-old astrolabe, and it’s very rare as it’s signed and dated,” he says. “This period [between the ninth and fourteenth centuries] has an awful lot of enthusiasm for it, not just from collectors from the Middle East. Buyers and collectors globally want to buy into the achievements of the Islamic Golden Age.”

Who would have used this astrolabe? “It was probably a princely commission. A lot of time went into making it,” Carter says, noting that it is the first of three signed astrolabes produced by Muhammad ibn al-Saffar over the course of 10 years. “It was a very niche, courtly thing. Not just any old person would have one. That’s why there’s not so many out there, and most are in museums.”

Is it entirely original? No. The pierced face of the astrolabe, which is known as a rete, was replaced in Turkey sometime in the 16th or 17th centuries. “It is a functional replacement,” Carter says. “Five hundred years after it was made, it was a valuable tool, still being used. That tells us a lot.”

How soon did you know that you had something special with this? “The moment I saw this, I knew it was pretty exciting,” he says. “I didn’t know it was signed or dated, but I immediately realized it looked early and important. You always hope something like this will show up, and one day, it does.”

How to bid: The astrolabe is lot 170 in Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World auction, which takes place in London on April 26, 2017.

How to subscribe to The Hot BidClick the trio of dots at the upper right of this page.

Text is copyright Sheila Gibson Stoodley. Image is courtesy of Sotheby’s.

UPDATE: Papa Flash Makes a Splash at Swann Galleries With Milk Drop Coronet

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Update: Milk Drop Coronet sold for $4,250.

What you see: Milk Drop Coronet, a photograph taken by Harold Edgerton in 1957 and printed via the dye transfer technique in the 1970s, when Edgerton signed it in pencil. Swann Galleries estimates it at $4,000 to $6,000.

Who was Harold Edgerton? Harold “Doc” Edgerton was an electrical engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He used his knowhow to create an electric flash that could fire extremely briefly–10 microseconds, or 1/100,000th of a second–allowing his camera to capture events that happen too fast for the eye to see. His mastery earned him the nickname “Papa Flash.” He died in 1990 at the age of 86.

Where was Edgerton in his career in 1957? “He was still at MIT, but by 1957 he had achieved recognition for his inventions and his visionary approach to making images,” says Daile Kaplan, vice president and director of photographs and photobooks at Swann Galleries. “But the photography market didn’t happen until the first galleries opened their doors in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

Is that why Milk Drop Coronet was shot in 1957 and printed in the 1970s? Yes. “Edgerton did not identify himself as an artist, which isn’t surprising,” Kaplan says, “At the start of the market for photography, dealers realized that a picture of this elegance could be a full-fledged artistic image. Edgerton was a very brilliant man. He acknowledged that his work had taken on a new audience, a new form.”

How does the dye transfer process improve the image? “It’s probably the most stable and vivid technique in relation to reproducing color,” she says, noting that dye transfer is no longer used. “It was the blue-chip technique. The reds [of Milk Drop Coronet] are vivid and saturated–they pop.”

Does Milk Drop Coronet belong to a limited edition? “Multiple prints were made during this period, but it was not a common practice to edition prints. The market was still articulating itself,” Kaplan says. Later, she stated that she had handled versions of the photograph in eight Swann Galleries auctions over the last 10 years: Three dye transfers, two chromogenic (color) prints, and three that were black and white.

What makes Milk Drop Coronet special? “This is one of the top Edgerton images, and I have to say, one of the most popular images of the 20th century,” she says. Speaking of Edgerton’s 20th century stop-motion achievements, she adds, “It’s startling in its prescience. Time is accelerating, people are moving at faster and faster paces. He looked at it from an academic and a scientific perspective, but he was able to articulate in his images what people were beginning to feel.”

How to bid: Milk Drop Coronet is lot 214 in Swann Galleries’s Images & Objects: Photographs & Photobooks auction on April 20.

How to subscribe to The Hot BidClick the trio of dots at the upper right of this page.

Text is copyright Sheila Gibson Stoodley. Image is courtesy of Swann Galleries.

UPDATE: Lady In Red: Alex Katz’s Limited Edition Screenprint Sells for $32,500 at Phillips

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Update: The Alex Katz screenprint of Red Coat sold for $32,500.

What you see: Red Coat, a 1983 limited edition screenprint co-published by artist Alex Katz and Simca Print Artists. It is number 70 of 73, and there were 12 artist’s proofs. Phillips estimates it at $25,000 to $35,000.

Who is Alex Katz? He is an American figurative artist who launched his art career in the 1950s. He is known for his large portraits and bold colors. His wife, Ada, who he married in 1958, might be his favorite model. She has featured in more than 250 of his portraits, including the original 1982 Red Coat canvas, which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Katz began making prints in 1965 and has produced more than 400 editions to date. He will turn 90 in July; Ada is about a year younger than him.

What makes Red Coat a strong image, and a strong print? “Not to be vulgar, but red is always a good seller,” says Cary Leibowitz, worldwide co-head of editions at Phillips. “The scale of this is always quite nice–almost five feet tall. The directness of how Ada looks at the viewer, the proportions–everything that could be right is right about it. It’s become an icon.”

How rare is this screenprint of Red Coat? Leibowitz says a print from the edition comes up about once a year on average. “It’s an icon, and traditionally, it sells well,” he says. The record auction price for a print from the 1983 edition is $50,000, set at Wright 20 in 2013. Phillips sold another Red Coat print last year for $47,500.

Does its size–58 inches by 29 inches–pose an obstacle to collectors? “Katz has prints in every scale. Some are larger than this,” Leibowitz says. “He approaches each print almost like a painting. The scale works well for this image.”

What else makes Red Coat special? “It has an unexplainable force that just works,” says Leibowitz. “It’s larger than life and it feels that way, in a good way.”

How to bid: The Alex Katz Red Coat screenprint is lot 13 in Phillips New York’s Editions and Works on Paper Including Works from the Piero Crommelynck Collection auction on April 18.

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Text is copyright Sheila Gibson Stoodley. Image is courtesy of Phillips/Phillips.com

Still Dream of Jeannie? Julien’s Is Offering the Original Bottle from the Iconic 1960s TV Show

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What you see: The original prop bottle from the NBC sitcom I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970). It’s hand-painted and stands 14 inches tall. Julien’s estimates it at $40,000 to $60,000.

How do we know this is the original prop bottle from I Dream of JeannieIt comes directly to Julien’s from the estate of Gene Nelson, who directed six episodes of the show’s first season, including the pilot, titled The Lady in the Bottle. At some point, Nelson obtained a letter of authenticity from Barbara Eden, who played the title character, Jeannie. Nelson died in 1996. Eden will turn 86 in August.

Did Nelson create the I Dream of Jeannie bottle? Nelson has the strongest claim on its origin story. He was hunting for something that didn’t look like Aladdin’s lamp, spotted a Jim Beam decanter in a liquor store window, snapped it up, and handed it over to the folks in the prop department, who peeled the labels off the glass and decorated it with paint. “There’s something unique in the fact that he saw this,” says Darren Julien, founder and CEO of Julien’s Auctions. “He was scouting around, found the bottle, and had the vision to paint it. He was a good visionary.”

Was it used on the set? Almost certainly, but coming up with a precise photo match is tough, given that the prop bottles were painted to look identical. But according to Julien, the animators would have referenced photos of this bottle when creating the opening credit sequence, and it’s safe to say it was shown in the early episodes that Nelson directed. He left I Dream of Jeannie after repeated clashes with Larry Hagman, who played astronaut Tony Nelson on the show.

How rare is the bottle? “It’s very rare. We have not handled one before. Not many survive, and nobody back then would have saved anything like that,” says Julien, adding, “It’s the Holy Grail of the series to have. It’s what the show is about. Provenance is king, and it has such a solid history. It’s an iconic piece that’s going to sell for a lot more than our estimate.”

So, does it come with Barbara Eden? No, but it does include the letter of authentication that she wrote for Nelson. The bottle’s interior is also unfurnished and long since emptied of its whiskey. And neither Julien’s nor The Hot Bid is responsible for the I Dream of Jeannie theme song getting stuck in your head.

Damn you! #SorryNotSorry

How to bid: The I Dream of Jeannie original bottle is lot 486 in the Property from the Estate of Patrick Swayze and Hollywood Legends 2017 auction on April 28 at Julien’s.

How to subscribe to The Hot BidClick the trio of dots at the upper right of this page.

Text is copyright Sheila Gibson Stoodley. Image is courtesy of Julien’s Auctions.

Da DA dadadadada Da DA dadadadada Da DA dadadadadada. BadadaDA!