The Winning Pair: Modernism And Provenance

Harry Bertoia was a modern artist in the ’60s who created all kinds of unusual metalwork. His pieces sold in art galleries and furniture galleries along with the likes of Knolls, who was a purveyor of modernist, Danish modern and other mid-century artists.

Our consignor had taken this sculpture to Antiques Roadshow, which gave a retail value in the $30,000
range. She brought it to us, understanding the auction value would be less. A similar piece online sold at a major  auction house for $16,000.  We suggested she give us a reasonable reserve. She said $9,000, but we were confident it could sell for much more — so we agreed on an $11,000 reserve.

Harry Bertoia's Sculpture

Why were we so confident? After all, with several branches bent, one of the golden-colored knobs missing and the entire piece oxidized, its condition was not good. However, this woman had rock-solid provenance. She had the original letter from the artist, as well as a receipt thanking her for her purchase and naming the piece The Golden Tree.

golden tree

$16,000 / 1960s
THE GOLDEN TREE
HARRY BERTOIA METAL SCULPTURE

We sold it for her at auction and were able to receive a hammer price of over $16,000.  A hammer price is described as the price when the hammer comes down — before the buyer’s premium is added and the seller’s premium is
subtracted. Even with our fee, our consignor did quite well — which proves that your reliable local auction venue, Hess Fine Art, is capable of getting as much money (or more, in this case) as a major auction house.

This is an archival article formerly written and is for informational purposes only. The valuations in this article have likely changed since it was first written.

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