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American Material Culture

Market Watch: Folk Art from the Katz Collection

John Chaski

These sheep were having a rough day when Susan Waters painted them.  Especially the one on the left.  "Dude, I've seen some things that are tough for a sheep to process today...some things it's hard for a sheep to forget" that sheep is saying.  That's sort of how I feel when I reflect on Sotheby's sale of Folk Art from the Katz Collection, which I attended last Saturday. 

29% unsold; 30% sold below estimate; 15% sold within estimate; 26% sold above estimate.  It could be worse, right?  If you want to separate the folk portraiture out then yes, it could be worse.  Folk portraits (full size oil paintings):  48% unsold; 18% below; 24% within; 9% above. 


One of the exceptions...lot 5101, John Usher Parsons, $50,000.

One of the exceptions...lot 5101, John Usher Parsons, $50,000.


The Rasmussen Almshouse took off.  That saved the sale, with its own single-owner catalog, from falling short of the million dollar mark.  What's the lesson?  I'm not sure there's much of one.  Collectors of folk art are very much adverse to lined paintings.  In my opinion that is irrational, but it's life.  That blurry realm in between folk and academic portraiture is not a real happy one as of late.  Buy paintings by somebody who embraced the limitations of their naivety.  Buy them in good condition when you can, and think hard when they are in good condition but lined (yes, that is a thing). 

That's enough sad stuff for one night.  Next blog will be about a much happier subject, formal Pennsylvania furniture.  I. am. not. even. joking