David Rago characterizes his two-day sale on June 16 and 17 of early contemporary, modern, and 21st-century design and contemporary pottery as not being "super exclusive" — unlike certain (ahem) New York auction houses, he explained last week, that sometimes limit sales to a hundred or so costly items.
Not only will the three sessions at the Rago Arts and Auction Center in Lambertville offer a total of 1,100 lots, with most expected to sell for three- to high-four-figure prices, Rago is also showcasing them to potential new auction-goers with a special exhibition this weekend in town, at a condominium at 10 Rittenhouse Square.
About 100 pieces have been installed by Marguerite Rodgers Interior Design at the two-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot property that will be open by appointment from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday . (Call Rago at 609-397-9374).
They include a Gustave Baumann woodblock print, Spring Blossoms with a presale estimate of $8,000 to $12,000, according to the online catalog accessible at www.ragoarts.com, and a Dirk Van Erp boudoir lamp made around 1910 with a presale estimate of $5,000 to $7,000.
Both will be offered in the auction's first session at the gallery in Lambertville, beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 16. The more than 75 lots of pottery that open the session include two Frances Rocchi "Saturday Evening Girls" ceramics, a pitcher expected to bring $10,000 to $15,000, and a center bowl with a presale estimate of $17,500.
Also expected to bring $10,000 to $15,000 is a Samuel Yellin pair of large wrought-iron and quarter-sawn oak doors made around 1928 from the collection of Peter Renzetti in Goodhart Hall at Bryn Mawr College.
The 370-lot session ends with several lamps expected to bring some of the auction's top prices, notably a Tiffany table lamp with "Dogwood" shade ($95,000 to $125,000) and a Tiffany floor lamp with tulip shade ($100,000 to $150,000).
The Rocchi pottery, Yellin gates, and Tiffany lamps are among the dozen or so lots with presale estimates in the five-figure range or more. Otherwise, estimates are moderate, the cheapest being a George Ohr gun-metal and amber vessel, one of 10 Ohr pieces in the session with a presale estimate of $500 to $700, and a 1912 L. & J.G. Stickley coat rack, one of the session's 74 lots of Stickley, that is expected to bring $600 to $900.
The final, and largest, of the three sessions begins at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 17. The nearly 600 lots also contain some of the auction's priciest items, notably a 1960s Harry Bertoia bronze and copper bush-shaped sculpture ($50,000 to $75,000); a Paul Evans patinated copper painted wood sculpture, one of 11 Evans works in the session, with a presale estimate of $45,000 to $65,000; a hanging wall cabinet of welded and dye-painted aluminum, also by Evans ($20,000 to $30,000), that also will be exhibited at 10 Rittenhouse. A Wharton Esherick side chair made in 1932 in Paoli and signed by the artist has a presale estimate of $15,000 to $20,000.
The session also features 33 lots of Nakashima furniture, including a 1963 conoid English walnut desk with a presale estimate of $15,000 to $20,000 and a 1958 turned-leg dining table of English and black walnut with a presale estimate of $35,000 to $45,000.
Other items in the sale have more affordable estimates. A folklore wool rug made by Olga Fisch, with animals and hunters, titled "Caverna" and bearing an Ecuador Fabric Folklore label, and an untitled sculpture made by Leo Sewell out of reclaimed toys, household goods, and painted wool each have presale estimates of $2,000 to $3,000.
And a 1960s Wendell Castle "molar" settee made of Gel-coat fiberglass and rubber that looks like — well — a molar has a presale estimate of $1,800 to $2,400.
One piece that will not be on display at No. 10 Rittenhouse is a massive — and fragile — glazed ceramic "Jazz" bowl made around 1931 by the Cowan Pottery Studio in Ohio by Viktor Schreckengostthat will open the 77-lot contemporary pottery session. It follows the first on June 16 and also features a hand-painted Picasso glazed tile portraying a boy's head. Presale estimate is $30,000 to $40,000.
(By the way, Freeman's has also enlarged its exhibition options to the Main Line, augmenting its Center City headquarters with an office and gallery in Spread Eagle Village.)
The bowl is expected to bring $40,000 to $60,000. Originally made for the Roosevelt family, it is the last one in private hands, according to Rago. "If it broke I'd never forgive myself," he said. Previews at the gallery, 333 N. Main St., Lambertville: noon to 5 p.m. June 9 to 14, noon to 7 p.m. June 15, and 9 a.m. to sale time on June 16 and 17. For further information call 609-397-9374.
Previews: noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday and noon to sale time Wednesday at the gallery at 344 Valleybrook Rd. For further information call 610-358-9515.