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20th century metal horse sculpture commands double its high estimate

A 20th century metal sculpture of a horse by Deborah Kay Butterfield rose to double its high estimate, finishing at $70,400, to claim top lot in a 547-lot auction presented by Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The staff at Palm Beach Modern Auctions (PBMA) greeted a large and extremely motivated contingent of bidders at its June 2 Spring Modern Art & Design sale, and not surprisingly so. The attraction was one of the company’s finest-ever assemblages of modern and contemporary art, furniture and fine jewelry from consignors in Palm Beach and other upscale Florida communities, as well as the Hamptons and New York City. The 537-lot auction realized $1,725,000, inclusive of 28% buyer’s premium.

Skyrocket Price for Horse Sculpture

Metal horse sculpture

Top lot of the sale is this 39 1/2 inch by 53 inch metal horse sculpture by Deborah Kay Butterfield. The piece sold for $70,400. (All photos courtesy Palm Beach Modern Auctions)

The market’s insatiable demand for quality art and furniture by bankable artists, especially if accompanied by prestigious provenance, was evident throughout the event. “Fine collections, in particular, were the drawcards, and in quite a few instances those collections were 100 percent sold,” said PBMA partner and auctioneer Rico Baca. One such case was the exclusive art consignment from The Norman S. Jaffe Art Trust of Coral Gables, Florida, which produced the auction’s top lot: a Deborah Kay Butterfield (American, b. 1949-) metal sculpture of a horse. It sped past its $25,000-$35,000 estimate as it powered its way to a $70,400 finish.

Also from the Jaffee Art Trust, a thought-provoking Lynn Chadwick (British, 1914-2003) bronze sculpture titled RAD LAD II, artist-signed and noted as edition 3/3, sold online for $30,720.

Another collection that sold in its entirety was the 15-lot offering of Karl Springer furniture and designs from a Palm Beach residence. It included several pieces with the enticing provenance of originally having been purchased from the Karl Springer showroom. From this selection, a 1983 modernist bronze of a baboon sculpted by Springer’s life partner Roberto Estevez, artist-signed and edition 4/6, defied its $2,000-$4,000 estimate in reaching $19,200.

Art Deco Painting Commands $25,600

Karel Maes painting

"COMPISTIE," painting by Karel Maes, circa 1928, sold for $25,600.

The lot attracting the most active bidding, including challengers on nine phone lines, was a signed Karel Maes (Belgian, 1900-1974) painting created in 1928 and titled COMPOSITIE. A label on verso indicated prior ownership by a Dutch gallery. Visionary in its approach, it might easily have been mistaken for a premier mid-century work. Estimated at $3,500-$5,500, this crowd-pleaser from the Art Deco period achieved far more, settling at $25,600.

A Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) mixed-media screenprint on chalkboard with wood frame, titled Kunst=Kapital, was artist-signed and numbered “20” from an edition of 50. From an important private collection in Coral Gables, Florida, its earlier provenance included Griffin Contemporary of Venice Beach, California. It captured the interest of multiple bidders and achieved $21,750 against an estimate of $5,000-$10,000.

PBMA’s largest offering of Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) pottery to date was on the minds of many bidders, as was a collection of Beatrice Wood ceramics, which was 100% sold. A Picasso “Chouette Femme” vessel – 11.25 inches high, from an edition of 500 – commanded $19,200 against an estimate of $12,000-$15,000.

Paul Evans Dining Table Takes $48,640

A rare 1971 Paul Evans Studio for Directional mid-century modern Skyline dining table and set of eight chairs crossed the auction block as two consecutive lots. The table sold within estimate for $10,880; while the chairs ignited a bidding war that finally ended with a winning bid of $48,640, which was just shy of its $50,000 high estimate. A Paul Evans faceted cabinet of burlwood, lacquered fiberglass and glass closed its sculptural double doors at $29,440.

Both a collection of T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings furniture designed for Saridis, and a collection of Saridis furniture and marble sent to PBMA from Greece were 100% sold. A Robsjohn-Gibbings cabinet cataloged with a $6,000-$8,000 estimate ended its impressive bidding run at $17,280.

Other above-high-estimate highlights included a pair of rare Max Ingrand for Fontana Arte floor lamps, which lit up the room at $30,720; a Gio Ponti for Singer & Sons sofa, $11,520; a large Philip and Kelvin LaVerne Chin Yin coffee table, $16,640; and a Frank Lloyd Wright sectional sofa, $12,800. A select and fully sold Palm Beach collection of luxury timepieces included a Cartier Santos 100, which brought $4,1600.

To contact Palm Beach Modern Auctions about consigning to a future sale, call 561-586-5500 or email Online: