Thomas and Whitney Armstrong insider art collection comes to Schwenke Feb. 13

Alexander Calder, twisted wire presentation 'whimsey' sculpture of an elephant that is also a bow tie, estimated at $20,000-$30,000 at Schwenke.

WOODBURY, Conn. — Having spent his entire career in the art world, running some of the country’s most important museums and collections, Tom Armstrong (1932-2011) amassed an amazing collection of art from across the creative spectrum. With his beloved wife Whitney (better known to all as Bunty) having passed in 2022, the family has decided to return the Armstrong collection to the market via Schwenke Auctioneers on Tuesday, February 13. The catalog is now available for bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

Armstrong’s resume reads like a who’s-who of the American art establishment intelligentsia. At the time of his passing in 2011, he was director emeritus of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Andy Warhol Museum. He was also a board member of the New York School of Interior Design.

A prime example of Armstrong’s insider status can be found in this Alexander Calder (1898-1976) wire sculpture of both an elephant and bow tie, depending on the viewing angle. Calder gave it to Armstrong in appreciation for the latter’s retrospective on the artist’s career mounted at The Whitney Museum of American Art in 1976. The highly personal gift is estimated at $20,000-$30,000, and Schwenke has applied for registration of the piece with the Calder Foundation.

The Armstrongs were clear fans of ceramicist Betty Woodman (b. 1930-). Her Mewar Memories triptych is comprised of three earthenware vessels, and carries an estimate of $40,000-$50,000.

Andrew Masullo (b. 1957-) is a modern abstract artist who has said he uses a numbering system for his work titles so that viewers won’t be tempted to interpret what any given painting might “mean.” The Armstrongs purchased 3330, an oil on canvas with a multitude of small ovals and circles, from Washburn Gallery in New York. It is estimated at $5,000-$7,000.

The Armstrongs collected many bronzes, with one particular example worthy of further examination: Galapagos Penguin, a 1932 bronze by James Lippitt Clark (1883-1969). Clark was an artist working primarily in bronze, but also served as curator of arts and a taxidermist at the American Museum of Natural History, part of the Smithsonian Institution. Working there would have given him access to taxidermied penguins from which to fashion his bronze. The 9.5in penguin is estimated at $3,000-$5,000.

Toshiko Takaezu, Betty Woodman, Lucie Rie and Claude Conover headline Rago’s Oct. 4 sale

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LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. — Rago, along with its partners Wright and Los Angeles Modern Auctions, have combined forces to present some of the most prominent names in postwar and contemporary ceramics on Wednesday, October 4. The catalog is now available for bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

Toshiko Takaezu (1922-2011) was a driving force in redefining clay as an artistic medium. Her focus on Abstractionism placed her as a leader in the postwar scene, with her works gaining international attention in the 1950s and ’60s. Takaezu’s work helped transform ceramics from everyday household objects to a medium for artistic expression.

The top lot in the sale is a well-known work from Takaezu that comes from a private collection in Tucson, Arizona. Spring Moon (With Rattle) features unforgettable glazing and is estimated at $70,000-$90,000.

Pillow Pitcher is a circa-1985 glazed earthenware work by Betty Woodman (1930-2018). Like many in her generation, Woodman began making functional ceramics but soon moved to more expressionist designs while retaining a degree of functionality, an aesthetic that Pillow Pitcher represents. The lot carries an estimate of $25,000-$35,000.

The sale also showcases numerous pieces from noted postwar ceramicists. There are four works from Lucie Rie (1902-1995), topped by a large bottle with a flaring lip estimated at $10,000-$15,000. Four works from famed ceramic artist Claude Conover (1907-1994) are featured as well, including a rare Totonac vessel, estimated at $20,000-$30,000.
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Toshiko Takaezu, ‘Spring Moon (with rattle),’ estimated at $70,000-$90,000 at Rago.
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Betty Woodman, ‘Pillow Pitcher,’ estimated at $25,000-$35,000 at Rago.
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Lucie Rie, ‘Large bottle with flaring lip,’ estimated at $10,000-$15,000 at Rago.
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Claude Conover, rare ‘Totonac’ vessel, estimated at $20,000-$30,000 at Rago.
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Gertrud and Otto Natzler, ‘Double-curved closed form,’ estimated at $5,000-$7,000 at Rago.
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Art by Woody Gwyn, Roger Mühl and Itshak Holtz wildly outperformed estimates at Freeman’s

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PHILADELPHIA — Artworks by Woody Gwyn, Roger Mühl and others soared far above their estimates at Freeman’s Art and Design auction on August 23. The sale was carried by LiveAuctioneers.

Field/Pond 1, an incredibly detailed and lush study of a grain field with water in the background by American artist Woody Gwyn (b. 1944-), had an estimate of $6,000-$10,000. Spirited bidding between the floor and internet buyers skyrocketed the piece to a final hammer of $45,000 ($58,950 with buyers premium).

Noted abstract landscape artist Roger Mühl’s Provencean oil on canvas measuring 31.5 by 33.5in, was estimated at $3,000-$5,000. The artist’s work opened at $1,500, immediately shot to $20,000 and hammered at $28,000 ($36,680 with buyers premium).

Itshak Holtz (1925-2018) was a well-known Israeli and American Orthodox Jewish painter who focused on traditional scenes of Jewish life. His Made to Order oil on canvas depicting a tailor plying his trade hammered at $22,000 ($28,820 with buyers premium), well beyond the estimate of $1,000-$1,500.

A Georg Jensen sterling flatware service for 12 (86 pieces in all, total weight approximately 83.95 oz. t., excluding dinner and luncheon knives) cut through to an amazing $26,000 ($34,060 with buyers premium) after being assigned an estimate of $6,000-$8,000.

Considered one of the “most important voices in postwar art,” Betty Woodman (1930-2018) worked primarily in ceramics. Her circa-1983 terracotta pillow pitcher hammered at $15,000 ($19,650 with buyers premium).
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Woody Gwyn, ‘Field/Pond 1,’ sold for $45,000 ($58,950 with buyer’s premium) at Freeman’s.
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Roger Mühl, ‘Provence,’ sold for $28,000 ($36,680 with buyer’s premium) at Freeman’s.
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Itshak Holtz, ‘Made to Order,’ sold for $22,000 ($28,820 with buyer’s premium) at Freeman’s.
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Georg Jensen sterling flatware service for 12, sold for $26,000 ($34,060 with buyer’s premium) at Freeman’s.
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Betty Woodman, Pillow Pitcher, sold for $15,000 ($19,650 with buyer’s premium) at Freeman’s.
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Jorgen Hansen and Jens Thuesen Futura bar cabinet from 1959, sold for $8,000 ($10,480 with buyer’s premium) at Freeman’s.
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Don Van Vliet, ‘Day Barrette,’ sold for $22,000 ($28,820 with buyer’s premium) at Freeman’s.
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Exceptional women ceramicists in spotlight at Hindman, Nov. 18

Betty Woodman Pillow Pitcher, estimated at $15,000-$20,000
Betty Woodman Pillow Pitcher, estimated at $15,000-$20,000
Betty Woodman Pillow Pitcher, estimated at $15,000-$20,000

CHICAGO – Ceramics by iconic designers Ruth Duckworth, Lucie Rie and Betty Woodman will anchor Hindman’s biannual Modern Design auction on Friday, November 18. The 130-lot sale also includes impressive furniture by Paul Evans, Philip and Kelvin LaVerne and Charles and Franco Albini. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

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Heritage’s Jan. 27 Design sale delivers prizes by Wright & Nakashima

Frank Lloyd Wright, copper table for Oklahoma’s Price Tower, est. $12,000-$18,000. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions
Frank Lloyd Wright, copper table for Oklahoma’s Price Tower, est. $12,000-$18,000. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

DALLAS – For its first Design event of the year, Heritage Auctions is offering a first-rate selection of pieces by an international cast of design superstars. The star-studded lineup for the Design Signature® Auction on Jan. 27 includes celebrated American architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, Bruce Goff and William Wesley Peters, whose featured offerings include rare furniture from some of their most important projects. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

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Museum of Art & Design places craft front and center

Viola Frey, ‘Group Series: Questioning Woman 1,’ 1988
Viola Frey, ‘Group Series: Questioning Woman 1,’ 1988

NEW YORK – Once at the margins of the art world, today craft is front and center in art galleries, museums, and fairs, widely recognized for its expressive potential and cultural significance. On view at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) from May 22 to February 13, 2022, “Craft Front & Center” brings together more than 70 iconic and lesser-known works, assembled from the eclectic richness of the Museum’s permanent collection to highlight key touchpoints in craft’s history that have led to the current moment.

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