Word from God moves collector to sell 900-lot trove of Americana at auction

INDIANAPOLIS – A single-owner collection of antiques will yield about 900 lots of Americana at Dan Ripley’s Antique Helper during an auction May 15 in Indianapolis. Fresh to the market, the merchandise includes a variety of decorative country items, including tramp art, folk pottery, paintings and furniture.

Diversity plays a major role in the untouched collection, which ranges from Arts & Crafts to outsider art. “It’s an accumulation of vintage material of all types,” said Dan Ripley, owner of the auction house. “There’s a lot of material and something for everyone.”

More than just the antique collection is intriguing. There’s also the story of why it’s crossing the auction block. According to the owner, 69-year-old Mike Kirk of Hardinsburg, Ind., God told him to sell the antiques.

At a men’s conference in northern Indiana in December, Kirk said he was instructed by God to “present my talents” to the church where the weekend activities took place. Like Jesus’ charge to the rich young ruler, the command received by Kirk meant selling his prized possessions.

Kirk is following through without hesitation. “I’m more interested in letting people know that God is alive and working in his people,” he said. “That’s more important to me than the stuff, obviously, because I’m going to turn it all over.”

For buyers, the sale is a blessing.

As Ripley noted, “When this type of collector is suddenly moved to action with conviction, the opportunity is created to produce the type of auction that is rarely seen in today’s marketplace.”

The Americana offered fits in perfectly with today’s current design trends that mix primitives, folk art and country store antiques with modern homes.

“I’ve seen what the dealers are marketing these days, and there’s a lot of material for that type of design,” Ripley said. “It’s great for today’s Americana décor.”

Artwork makes up a large share of the sale, with about 200 original paintings offered, as well as approximately 50 prints. The original art, primarily from untrained painters, was created largely from 1880 to 1940, with an emphasis on outdoor scenes.

Among the more prominent pieces is an exhibition-size Hudson River painting showing West Point, with sporting activities that include sculling, fishing and sailing. “As far as I’m concerned, this thing could hang in the White House and be right at home,” Kirk said.

Among the other folk art paintings is a large work by Aston Knight, as well as art by Howard Finster, who has been called America’s premier folk artist.

Many of the paintings are bucolic views. “During the Depression years, people traveled to national parks and painted scenes like Wedding Falls and Niagara Falls. Several take on that kind of imagery,” said Kirk.

A selection of art focusing on American Indians includes original paintings, as well as prints from the likes of L. Goddard and Howard Chandler Christy.

Arts & Crafts will get considerable attention during the auction, with notable lots that include a Grueby lamp in a green glaze, the pot approximately 16 inches high, with a Tiffany-style shade. Other lighting includes Wisteria and Dragonfly lamps, while American art pottery includes examples by Van Briggle, Weller and Pewabic. Contemporary works include Southern face jugs. From Europe comes an early example of Greber pottery with pewter mounts.

Among the furniture are a Limbert footstool in an unusual Arts & Crafts design, a Louis Majorelle cabinet, and rustic/primitive pieces, including a set of six hickory dining chairs by Rittenhouse.

Folk art received heavy attention when Kirk built the collection. The auction will feature about 200 tramp art frames, as well as boxes and small cabinets. A variety of Victorian shell art will also be sold.

Other items are as varied as vintage advertising and a 1905 quilt with about 50 embroidered designs. “It is the Country Living look, definitely,” Kirk said.

The creator of the Carhartt logo, Kirk collected throughout his 45-year career in graphics arts and advertising design.

In addition to dealing with corporate clients over the years, he also dealt in antiques, specializing in Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the 1980s, and folk art in the 1990s. He set up at national shows and ran two retail shops in Michigan, Bailiwick in Rochester and Artclothes in Milford, mixing antiques with textiles and high-quality crafts.

After retiring about 10 years ago, Kirk moved to Indiana and eventually settled in an old general store, where he continued to add to his collection until the religious experience late last year. His immediate decision to following a calling to sell the material gives buyers a unique chance to acquire antiques that otherwise would have remained off the market to collectors and dealers for years.

The auction begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 15, at Antique Helper, 2764 East 55th Place, Indianapolis.

An online catalog will be available approximately one week prior to the sale. The items will sell in two rings. For more information, phone Antique Helper at 317-251-5635 or visit www.AntiqueHelper.com. ?

Photos courtesy Antique Helper

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