Buyers focus on photography, fine art at Millea Bros. auction

The top lot of the auction was a David Hockney photo portfolio from 1976, collection of Ileana Sonnabend, that earned $75,000. Millea Bros. image

BOONTON, N.J. – 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 Sen. Jacob and Marian Javits; and large-scale European and American contemporary art from the estate of venture capitalist Pentti Kouri. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.

“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 (above), 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 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 in his work was 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 (below), 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.

A Robert Rauschenberg photo portfolio, featuring 12 works, 1979, collection of Ileana Sonnabend, sold for $13,750. Millea Bros. image

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 titled Still Life II (below), 1974, 24 by 24 inches, Javits estate; and an Otto Zitko oil stick on aluminum panel painting, 118 by 86½ inches, estate of Pentti Kouri, New York City. Each painting brought $21,250.

From the Javits estate came a Dimitri Krasnopevtsev oil on Masonite painting, ‘Still Life II,’ 1974, bringing $21,250. Millea Bros. image

The first session kicked off with a fine grouping of Asian art, including a large Qianlong blue and white floral vase (below), 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, outstripped its $400-$600 estimate to earn $20,000. A Chinese carved jade moon flask, Qing dynasty, in pale celadon jade carved with blossoming trees and Chinese poem, 7 inches tall, fetched $18,750.

This large Qianlong blue and white floral vase, Qing dynasty, 19 inches tall, having a blue underglaze and Imperial Qianlong mark, quadrupled its high estimate to bring $27,500. Millea Bros. image

Another highlight was a pair of pre-Columbian Nayarit matched sitting figures, circa 200 B.C.-A.D. 200, Mexico, in red and white painted terra-cotta, 13 inches tall, which realized $18,750. 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. A 17th-18th-century Italian specimen marble top on table base (below), mixed marble, porphyry and semi-precious stone top with micromosaic corner rosettes, achieved $43,750. An Erard, Paris, grand piano, 19th century, in the Louis XIV style, brought $12,500.

A standout among furniture was an Italian specimen marble top on table base, 17th-18th century, 17½ x 43 x 29 in., that made $43,750. Millea Bros. image

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, multicolored gem feathers including diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies, that earned $11,875 and a pair of Continental bronze mounted bottles, 19th century, 12 inches high, that made $9,375.

This G. Nardi 18K gold mounted macaw brooch, circa 1950s in the Venetian style, having a baroque pearl breast perched on a diamond set branch, realized $11,875. Millea Bros. image

All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.

For more information, contact Millea Bros. at 973-377-1500.