Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Monday, June 04, 2007
Rookwood XVII

Under a particulate-laden dome of near Industrial era Cincinnati air pollution, the 17th annual spring auction of Rookwood Pottery at Cincinnati Art Galleries this past Sunday clearly established the once humble faience tile firmly within the high 5 and 6 figure Rookwood Pottery pantheon.
Bidding on the 14 ¾” by nearly 8” tile bearing the cipher of lone female architectural designer Sallie Toohey started slowly with audience gasps at a dream and pre-sale estimate-crushing opening bid of $33,000.
The audible gasping continued from the standing room only crowd as the fast-paced bids settled into a battle between two anonymous phone bidders before hammering to an astonishing and, for Rookwood as well as all other American architectural tiles, a market-shaping record price of $85,000!
The Toohey faience tile becomes the 7th most expensive piece of Rookwood Pottery ever sold by the Cincinnati Art Galleries in the 16 years since the seminal sale of the famed Glover Collection in 1991.
Expect antique malls across the nation to begin subtly raising prices on these increasing rare and decorative items.
Among the high end and mid range vases, most managed to sell within their pre-sale estimates in sales that were generally strong and particularly so for anything signed by Edward Timothy Hurley or William Ernst Hentschel.
However, no bets, seller’s hopes or buyer’s dreams are safe when jaded, sometimes fickle art pottery connoisseurs assemble en masse.

One beautiful high end vase, a sensitive 9” Grace Young standard glaze portrait of an American Indian mother and child painted in 1900, sold disappointingly under its low end pre-sale estimate for $26,000 while another similarly-sized and Iris-glazed Carl Schmidt vase decorated with a dazzling peacock feather in 1904 soared $17,000 over it's high end pre-sale estimate to sell for $37,000.

The always entertaining Cincinnati art pottery event experienced what are becoming annual moments of absurd internet bidding when a lowly 9 ¼” production vase covered in a modestly interesting purple matte glaze opened to floor indifference and a web bid $225 over the pre-sale estimate high of $200 before hammering to another internet bidder for an unexpected $500.
Animal figurals, also, brought their annual moment of bid lunacy when a late period ivory-glazed 3” rabbit paperweight sold for $600 in spirited, if cringe-inducing, floor and web bidding.
Sunday’s sale started on a somber note with news that auctioneer and human lightening bolt J. Louis Karp’s legendary mother and matriarch of the historic Main Auction Galleries Phyllis Tennenbaum Karp had passed away Saturday morning.
I had the great pleasure of meeting this remarkable, sparkling woman a little more than a year ago.
I grieve for the Karp family’s loss.

Photos: Mark Mussio

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