Rago’s ‘Curiouser’ auction Oct. 22 delves into unconventional art

unconventional art

Hand-painted sideshow banner, canvas in colors with iron hooks for hanging at each corner, stamped ‘O’Henry Tent & Company, Chicago, IL, USA,’ 20th century, 92in. x 115in. Estimate: $3,000-$5,000. Rago Arts and Auction image


LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. – On Sunday, Oct. 22, Rago Arts and Auction Center will present “Curiouser and Curiouser,” an auction of odd and unusual curios and artwork. Absentee and Internet bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

The more than 200 lots in the auction catalog include photographs, outsider art, circus and sideshow related items (above), unusual decorative arts (below), display and artist mannequins, books, scientific and medical items, and erotica.


unconventional art

‘The Frog Prince,’ one-of-a kind private commission, terra-cotta with a fine polychrome, leathery glaze, German, 19th century, 14 3/4in. x 12 1/2in. x 11 1/2in. Estimate: $9,000-$12,000. Rago Arts and Auction Center


Included in the sale will be two recently rediscovered Woodbridge figures (below). The carvings were uncovered on the site of what is now the Woodbridge Center Mall in Woodbridge, New Jersey, where once lay a series of clay pits and caves mined by the brick industry. During the demolition of a shack on the grounds workmen found over 100 small wooden figures resembling African idols. Ranging in size from 3 to 9 inches high, they are armless, nude and anatomically correct, with individually carved faces and varying body shapes balanced on two proportional feet. Rago’s Woodbridge figures come from a private collector who lives near the clay pits where the they were found. The figures, one male and one female, are in excellent condition and stand approximately 7 inches high.


unconventional art

The background and origin of the Woodbridge figures have confounded New Jersey historians and fueled urban legends since their discovery in the 1980s. Woodbridge pit figures, wood and paint, early/mid-20th century, each: 7in. Estimate: $3,000-$4,000. Rago Arts and Auction Center image


Other highlights include art spanning geography, centuries and styles, from 18th-century Venetian paintings of gobbos to contemporary works including vintage prints by Morton Bartlett as well as an original drawing (below).


unconventional art

Morton Bartlett, Untitled original drawing (Fashion Illustration), circa 1950, pencil on paper, 16 1/8 in. x 12 1/2in. (sight). Estimate: $9,000-$12,000. Rago Arts and Auction Center


Artist mannequins in the auction range from palm-size to life-size – the largest familiar to many from the window display of Ann Morris in Manhattan. Coveted by collectors, decorators and designers for decades, this remarkable life-size artist figure has never before been offered for sale.


unconventional art

Celebrated life-size articulated artist mannequin with a finely carved face, France, 1860, 60in. Estimate: $20,000-$25,000. Rago Arts and Auction Center image


Curator Marion Harris finds appeal in the unexpected, the mundane and the miraculous. She is probably best known for discovering the work of the iconic Morton Bartlett (1909-1992) in 1993 and placing him in museum collections.

She assisted in sourcing material for artist-curator Ydessa Hendeles for her 2015 installation From Her Wooden Sleep, and the book of the same name. Harris advised on the exhibition Silent Partners: Artist and Mannequin from Function to Fetish, which opened at the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum in October 2014.

This is an auction for new and established collectors, as well as designers, artists and other buyers who seek the unconventional, priced from $1,000 to well above.