Sold 91+ million! Edward Hopper crushes world auction records at Christie’s American sale

The 1929 painting, Chop Suey, by Edward Hopper, sold for $91,875,000 (including auction and buyer premiums) on November 13, 2018. It was the premiere lot at Christie’s November sale of American art, and provided quite a return for the heirs dispensing the Barney A. Ebsworth marquee collection. A native of St. Louis, Ebsworth made his fortune in the travel industry (Royal Cruise Lines). He maintained ties with museums across the country because of his stellar collection. Reportedly, Ebsworth promised to gift the painting to the Seattle Art Museum about 2007 and contradicted those statements in later years. Even if it’s spelled out directly, wills and contracts can be broken.

The hammer price for Chop Suey was 85 million net which fell squarely within its presale auction estimate range of 70 million to 100 million. The buyer is unknown. There was a bidding war, and initial rumors suggest it was acquired for a public collection.

Hopper’s prices have raced since 2000. Hopper’s former record at auction was 40.5 million- also at Christie’s– for East Wind Over Weehawken, a 1934 oil painting sold  on November 26, 2013. That sale toppled Hopper’s prior record of $26.9 million (for Hotel Window). Just ten years ago, the Cincinnati art museum purchased one of Hopper’s masterpieces, Prospect Street Gloucester, 1929, for 2 million from yet another Christie’s sale. That selection was one of the countless smart acquisitions led by a superb curator, Jane Glaubinger. Hopper’s 1934 oil painting of Sun on Prospect Street had been part of the museum’s collection as a result of the Edwin and Virginia Irwin Memorial since 1959. (At 8.4 million, Cape Ann Granite was a savvy purchase from the sales last spring.)

c EDWARD HOPPER _Chop Suey_32 x 38_ 1929 oc_Christies presale estimate 70 mil to 100 million

Edward Hopper_Sun on Prospect Street _Cincinnati Art Museum collection

And the Mystery Buyer of Berkshire Museum Shuffleton’s Barbershop by Norman Rockwell is…Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

No surprise! Here’s the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art press release about the Berkshire Museum deaccession. George Lucas already paid a record breaking price– 46 million–back in 2013 for Saying Grace, one of his numerous major Rockwells. Shuffleton’s Barbershop could have surpassed that price; the market won’t know unless Lucas opts to sell it at a public auction some future date.

1950 Norman Rockwell syaing grace

(photo above – Norman Rockwell, Saying Grace, collection Lucas Museum Narrative Art)

Thirteen more Berkshire Museum works (including another Rockwell Blacksmith’s Boy – Heel and Toe) will be sold at Sotheby’s auctions beginning May 14, 2018:

  • John La Farge, Magnolia, 1859–60. Estimate $200,000–300,000.
  • Charles François Daubigny, Paysans allant aux champs (Le Matin). Estimate $70,000–100,000.
  • Henry Moore, Three Seated Women, 1942. Estimate $400,000–600,000.
  • Alexander Calder, Double Arc and Sphere, executed circa 1932. Estimate $2,000,000–3,000,000. (*oddly just one of a site specific commisioned pair for the Berkshire Museum)
  • Francis Picabia, Force comique, 1914. Estimate $800,000–1,200,000.
  • Adriaen Isenbrant, The Temptation of Adam and Eve. Estimate $150,000–200,000.
  • William Bouguereau, The Newborn Lamb, 1873. Estimate $1,500,000–2,000,000. (**November cover lot pulled from sale last fall)
  • Alberto Pasini, Faubourg de Constantinople, 1877. Estimate $700,000–1,000,000.
  • Adriaen Isenbrant, The Flight into Egypt. Estimate $150,000–200,000.
  • William Bouguereau, Les deux sœurs, 1884. Estimate $2,000,000–3,000,000.
  • Norman Rockwell, Blacksmith’s Boy – Heel and Toe, 1940. Estimate $7,000,000–10,000,000.
  • Frederic Edwin Church, Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada, 1875. Estimate $5,000,000–7,000,000.
  • Rembrandt Peale, George Washington. Estimate $200,000–300,000.
  • Norman Rockwell, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, 1950. Acquired privately by a nonprofit American museum.
  • (the Vuillard and 25 more aren’t listed at this time)

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press release from Lucas Museum APR 11, 2018

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Lucas Museum Announces Acquisition of Norman Rockwell’s ‘Shuffleton’s Barbershop’

Museum ensures iconic masterwork remains in public view

Los Angeles, CA (April 11, 2018) – The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art today announced the acquisition of Norman Rockwell’s masterwork Shuffleton’s Barbershop. The 1950 painting, which had been in the collection of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA, has been the subject of considerable attention in recent months.

“As a museum dedicated to celebrating visual storytelling, we are honored to become the public steward of this major work,” said Don Bacigalupi, Founding President of the Lucas Museum. “Norman Rockwell is one of our nation’s most important storytellers, and this cultural treasure will continue to be seen and enjoyed by the public in an American museum, where it will be a source of inspiration for generations to come.”

The Lucas Museum recently broke ground and launched construction in Los Angeles, and is expected to open to the public in 2022. 

Shuffleton’s Barbershop, revered as one of the most iconic works of Rockwell’s storied career, will join an expansive collection of works by the artist, including Saying Grace (1951) and After the Prom (1957). 

These works will be featured prominently on public view to allow museum visitors to explore the power and importance of visual storytelling. The Lucas Museum will engage visitors of all ages in educational programs that highlight prominent examples of narrative art in a variety of mediums, periods and cultures. 

With the acquisition, the Lucas Museum announced a cross-country partnership whereby Shuffleton’s Barbershop will be on long-term loan to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, for public display commencing later this year and extending into 2020. The Lucas Museum will also explore opportunities to loan the painting to other museums in Massachusetts and elsewhere in order to maximize public access to this beloved work of art.

“We are immensely grateful to the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art for ensuring that Norman Rockwell’s masterpiece Shuffleton’s Barbershopwill continue to be available to and enjoyed by the public. We thank the Museum for generously loaning the painting to the Norman Rockwell Museum while the Lucas Museum is under construction in Los Angeles,” stated Laurie Norton Moffatt, Norman Rockwell Museum Director and CEO. “It is especially meaningful for the people of Berkshire County who will have the opportunity to enjoy this masterpiece for a few more years, knowing that it will remain in the public realm. We look forward to continuing to work with our friends at the Lucas Museum to create educational opportunities and appreciation of the narrative art of illustration, including ongoing collection-sharing.” Continue reading “And the Mystery Buyer of Berkshire Museum Shuffleton’s Barbershop by Norman Rockwell is…Lucas Museum of Narrative Art”

update from Save the Art – Save the Museum

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Save the Art – Save the Museum Continues to Seek Transparency from the Berkshire Museum and Attorney General

PITTSFIELD, Mass. (March 28, 2018) – Save the Art – Save the Museum has helped to achieve a major goal of saving the Berkshire Museum’s 40 most valuable artworks from immediate auction. We re-dedicate ourselves now that the issue is before the courts, and will continue our efforts to SAVE THE ART and SAVE THE MUSEUM for ours and future generations..

In Boston on Tuesday, as lawyers for both sides stated their cases before Judge David Lowy of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the Berkshire Museum reiterated its requirement for $55M, but again offered no documentation or proof to justify this vast sum. The intent of Zenas Crane, Norman Rockwell, and others who donated these treasures to the Berkshire Museum could not be clearer; they wanted them to be forever available for the pleasure, inspiration and education of the people of Pittsfield and Berkshire County. To sell them is to sell our cultural heritage.

Save the Art – Save the Museum believes the Berkshire community has a right to a candid reckoning of why we and all future generations must be denied these cherished and irreplaceable artworks. We continue to invite the Museum trustees to engage in dialogue with the community about alternatives to this drastic action.

The public deserves full transparency from the Berkshire Museum and the Massachusetts Attorney General. We call on the Supreme Judicial Court to reject the agreement and to order that the Attorney General conclude the investigation with a complete, published report.

READ MORE  Click here to read detailed court coverage by Catherine Ryan of GoodMorningGloucester Blog

TRUSTEES few smiles - Boston MA John Adams Courthouse -Berkshire Museum deaccession case oral arguments before SJO Justice Judge Lowy_Mar 20 2018 _102144 © catherine ryan (12)BOARD OF TRUSTEES in packed courtroom – John Adams Courthouse, Berkshire Museum deaccession case oral arguments before SJC Justice Judge Lowy, March 20, 2018 – Boston, MA. © 2018 Photo by Catherine Ryan

“Those, like me, who were caught off-guard by the astonishing deal (now awaiting court validation) cut last month by the Berkshire Museum and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey feel justifiably blindsided by the AG’s about-face. With scant explanation, she pivoted from a seemingly adversarial stance towards the museum’s deaccessions of the cream of its collection to acceptance of the shameful sell-offs, notwithstanding the fact that they would run afoul of professional standards and would violate what the AG had deemed to be restrictions prohibiting sales of about half of the 40 deaccessioned works.” – Lee Rosenbaum, CultureGrrl

READ MORE  Click to read commentary from Lee Rosenbaum’s CultureGrrl in artsjournal

BERKSHIRE EAGLE LARRY PARNASS Boston MA John Adams Courthouse -Berkshire Museum deaccession case oral arguments before SJO Justice Judge Lowy_Mar 20 2018 _102144 © catherine ryan (14)LARRY PARNASS, investigations editor for the Berkshire Eagle – Photo by Catherine Ryan © 2018

“In a 20-minute interview March 14, Healey responded both to questions about her handling of the museum’s proposed art sales and questions about whether her past ties to WilmerHale constitute at least an appearance of a conflict of interest. She rejected questions that her office was in any way in conflict. “With respect to any conflict of interest, we followed the rules. We didn’t have a conflict here and the results speak for themselves,” Healey said.”  – Larry Parnass, Berkshire Eagle

Save the Art – Save the Museum (STA) is a citizens’ group that started as a grassroots effort on social media shortly after the Museum announced plans for its sale in July 2017. Members meet regularly to organize opposition to the deaccession, educate the public about viable alternatives, and raise funds to support legal efforts. STA acts on behalf of more than 1,500 people who have joined its Facebook group dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of the Berkshire Museum imperiled by this sale, and thousands of other local residents who also object, many of whom have flooded the local newspaper with letters urging the Museum to change course and bring back the art.

Massachusetts boasts natural and cultural resources across the state. “Don’t miss an exhibit that’s closer than you think” is a Google map I pulled together Continue reading “update from Save the Art – Save the Museum”

Breaking News: This isn’t just another lost cause- Justice Lowy has scheduled a Hearing for Berkshire Museum litigation

John Adams Courthouse Superior Court Boston MA_20180301_© C Ryan_105912

Huge step and opportunity. Justice Lowy has scheduled a hearing on Tuesday March 20 for counsel and parties! High noon. This is not to the full court; first stop is before the Single Justice. Justice Lowy has allowed 10 minutes each for oral argument.

Catch up on the case Continue reading “Breaking News: This isn’t just another lost cause- Justice Lowy has scheduled a Hearing for Berkshire Museum litigation”