CHICAGO – Hindman reports a highly successful 2020 despite the challenges that faced all auction houses during the global pandemic. The year’s schedule included 100+ auctions and $64.9 million in sales, and the auction house saw exceptional participation from online bidders throughout the world. More than 55 percent of successful bids were a result of online bidding activity, and the firm saw an increase in online engagement by more than 10 percent. The company consistently exceeded expectations throughout the year with the majority of sales surpassing presale estimates.
After Hindman’s record-setting year in 2019, the firm continued that trend in 2020, breaking more records than during the previous year. The Fine Art Department set 15 global auction records and continued to draw extraordinary engagement throughout 2020, ultimately reaching more than $14.6 million in sales. The $1.9 million sale of Alexander Calder’s 1947 standing mobile Triple Cross, entered in the October Post War and Contemporary Art auction and shown at the top of this page, was the highest auction price in the company’s 38-year history and a momentous achievement for the department.
With distinguished expertise in presenting works by Chicago Imagists, the Post War and Contemporary Art sales offered a number of highlights and set significant records. Jim Nutt’s Shouldn’t We Be More Carefull? led the December auction, achieving the third-highest sale price ever for the artist’s work, ultimately realizing $396,500. Barbara Rossi’s, Mir-ror Grr-L realized $55,000 against an estimate of $30,000-$50,000 in the May sale, eclipsing the previous benchmark for the artist set by Hindman in December 2019. Across the year’s sales, excellent results and records were also achieved for artists Keith Haring, David Hockney, William McKendree Snyder, Dorothy Fratt, Philip Hanson, Paul Horiuchi, Thomas Kapsalis, Jordan Davies, John Himmelfarb, Keith Morrison, Albina Felski, and William Conger.
The Western Art category reached milestones and realized over $3.1 million in sales and set new records. The Arts of the American West Auction in June surpassed estimates with the Western Paintings & Sculpture sale realizing more than $1.8 million and online bidders winning nearly three quarters of lots in the auction and accounting for over 60% of the sale’s dollar total. The October Western Paintings and Sculpture auction set new world auction records and realized over $1.3 million. Records were set by Fritz Scholder, Billy Schenck, Howard Post, Earl Biss, David Bradley, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, William Berra, and Beatrice Mandelman.
Hindman continued its expansion in 2020, presenting new categories with its first dedicated Antiquities and Sports Memorabilia auctions. The firm hosted its inaugural Antiquities auction in June which realized nearly $1 million. While Hindman has worked with Antiquities for many years, the sale was its first auction focused exclusively on ancient art and featured artworks from the remarkable George Francoeur Trust. A second successful Antiquities auction was held in November and demonstrated the company’s strength in the market for Ancient Art.
The firm’s dedicated Sports Memorabilia auction was held in October, continuing the company’s tradition of handling historic sports artifacts, like it did for the Chicago Stadium and Comiskey Park. Michael Jordan specific memorabilia continued to demand top prices with the top lot of the auction, a 1994 Michael Jordan bronze maquette, “The Spirit,” realizing $27,500 against a presale estimate of $4,000-$6,000.
The Books & Manuscripts Department saw another fantastic year, with auctions once again exceeding expectations, resulting in more than $5.4 million in sales and a sell through rate that was nearly 91%. Leading the June auction was the most complete archive of Supreme Court Justice manuscripts to ever appear on the market at auction, comprising 203 signed documents from 16 Chief and 93 Associate Justices of the Court from 1789-2017, which sold for $25,000. The auction also featured the collection of Rhoda H. Clark and the Monastery Hill Bindery, one of the oldest businesses in Chicago.
The October auction of The Library of Gerald and Barbara Weiner realized more than $1.2 million. Highlights included a first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which sold for $112,500 against a presale estimate of $60,000-$800,000, a copy of William Shakespeare’s Fourth Folio, and a copy of the Kelmscott Press’s Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. The November auction, over 91% sold by lot, included works from several private collections. The top lot of the sale, a copy of the first edition of Machiavelli’s The Prince, brought $47,000, far surpassing the pre-sale estimate of $25,000-$35,000. Other highlights included a copy of the first octavo edition of Audubon’s Birds of America and a very fine illuminated Book of Hours.
One of the only auction houses hosting dedicated sales of African Americana in the country, Hindman saw strong engagement in the category in 2020, achieving a 90% sell-through rate and beating pre-sale estimates for the majority of lots presented. A two-part auction, The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana, presented one of the best private collections of African Americana to come to market in recent years. The collection included strong offerings in historic photography, which continues to be a strength for the department. Successes included a carte-de-visite of Edmonia Lewis seated, which ultimately realized $15,000, more than triple its presale estimate.
Across four sales in 2020, highlights in the African Americana category included an ebonized wood walking cane presented to Frederick Douglass, which ultimately realized $37,500, over 10 times its presale estimate. Other highlights included a copy of the first edition of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? which sold for $8,125, over double the presale estimate. Another standout sale was a typed letter from Malcolm X to his biographer, Alex Haley, which beat its presale estimate of $8,000 selling for $10,000.
It was also an exciting year for Hindman’s Luxury Goods departments. The jewelry and timepieces category ultimately realized over $9 million in sales. Important Jewelry sales included highlights from several renowned houses including Cartier, David Webb, Tiffany & Co., Buccellati, Van Cleef & Arpels, and more. An antique royal diamond tiara was a particularly stunning offering and realized over 10 times its presale estimate, selling for $68,750. The tiara was worn by Princess Eugenia for her 1938 wedding to Prince Dominik Radziwiłł, and contained numerous old mine, rose, and mixed cut diamonds weighing approximately 18 to 20 carats total, and seven diamond simulants. Couture ended the year on a high note with the Luxe Holiday: A Collectors’ Collection auction, which saw eager bidding on accessories, and featured three distinct categories: a collection of 17th- to 19th-century fashion and ephemera, collection contemporary luxury menswear, as well as a collection of accessories and iconic dresses and ensembles by some of the top designers in Japanese fashion.
The Palm Beach Collections auctions in December kicked off the season with two exceptional sales. The sales included furniture and other decorative art items from a Florida residence designed by respected New York-based interior designer Michael Simon, who is known for his deep understanding and knowledge of French 18th-century decorative arts. Sale standouts included a sculpture by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, Sweet Grapes, which realized over three times its presale estimate and sold for $21,250, and 20 Zuber panoramic wallpaper panels, which realized $21,250 against a presale estimate of $8,000-$12,000.
Hindman will soon celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Palm Beach office, with highlights including the Palm Beach Jewelry Sale on February 9. Hindman will also be presenting its first photography sale on January 21 and will also be presenting its first dedicated various owner African Americana sale on February 18.
Hindman is one of the nation’s leading fine art auction houses connecting cities nationwide to the global art market and providing expertise across all categories, sales channels and price points. Hindman operates more salerooms in the United States than any other auction house and conducts over 100 auctions a year in all major collecting categories. Hindman was formed through the acquisition of two premier auction houses, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers (est. 1982) and Cowan’s Auctions (est. 1995). Headquartered in Chicago, Hindman is home to 150 employees, with additional offices in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Milwaukee, Naples, Palm Beach, San Diego, Scottsdale, St. Louis and Washington D.C. Visit hindmanauctions.com for more information.