Art Sale Nets $300K Proceeds

The Jasper Francis Cropsey’s Lake George painting was one of six oil paintings Sotheby’s of New York auctioned for the James Prendergast Library earlier this month. The painting was estimated to sell for $30,000-$50,000, but the final hammer price, with buyer’s premium, was $275,000.

The first six oil paintings auctioned for the Prendergast Library have sold for more than $300,000.

Earlier this month, Sotheby’s of New York held the first of three scheduled auctions for some of the artwork that once hung in the Fireplace Room at the James Prendergast Library. The six paintings were estimated to bring in between $55,200 and $85,800, but the total hammer price, with the buyer’s premium, ended up being $328,500.

The first paintings auctioned off are known as the American artist collection. The painting that received the largest hammer price was Jasper Francis Cropsey’s Lake George, which was estimated to sell for $30,000 to $50,000 and went for $275,000.

The other five oil paintings that were auctioned off included Chauncey Foster Ryder’s “Camel’s Hump,” which was estimated to sell for $3,000 to $5,000 and went for $16,250; William Trost Richards’ “Ebbing Tide,” which was estimated to sell for $15,000 to $20,000 and went for $15,000; Chauncey Foster Ryder’s “Snow In November,” which was estimated to go for $3,000 to $5,000 and went for $11,875; John Francis Murphy’s “The Day Is Done,” which was estimated to go for $ 1,200 to $1,800 and went for $5,625; and Charles Warren Eaton’s “An October Sunset,” which was estimated to go for $3,000 to $4,000 and went for $4,750.

On Monday, Tina Scott, library executive director, said the next scheduled auction of former Prendergast oil paintings is slated for Oct. 28-29. She said Stair Galleries will be handling the auction that will include three paintings.

Last month, R. Thomas Rankin, president of the James Prendergast Library Board of Trustees, said the second Sotheby’s auction will be held Tuesday, Nov. 21, which will contain 15 to 20 paintings done by European artists. Also, Stair Galleries will auction off the remaining art pieces sometime in January.

In June, Rankin said the library will incur no cost from the sale of the paintings, which means 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of each painting will be returned to the library. Library officials have said proceeds from the auction will go toward their endowment fund.

In June, the library board unanimously approved a resolution cosigning the bulk of the art collection to Sotheby’s. In May, Scott said the artwork was estimated in 2015 to be worth $1.2 million to $1.6 million. The library board did not include in the sale any Prendergast family portraits or any Roger Tory Peterson’s prints.

The library board’s decision to hire an auction house took place following nearly two years after they first agreed to hire Sotheby’s to sell the art. However, the efforts by a group of area residents known as Save Local Art protested the auction and wanted the library board to keep the collection intact in Jamestown.

In December 2015, the board approved a proposal from the Jesse and Cathy Marion of Houston, Texas, to not auction the oil paintings from the Prendergast will or estate or from the Packard family in exchange for $60,000 in 2016. Rankin said, in December 2015, library officials would focus their attention in 2016, with the help of the Marions and the art community, on finding community-minded individuals or organizations that would want to buy the oil painting collection to keep it in Jamestown.

Rankin said in May that no individuals or organizations from Chautauqua County ever approached the library board with an offer to keep the art local.

According to an op-ed from Save Local Art that was printed in The Post-Journal June 13, the Marion’s made a purchase offer of $1,170,000 to the library board for the art collection last fall. However, a ruling from the state Attorney General’s Office prevented the sale from happening.

In May, the board approved an agreement with the state Attorney General’s Office to hire a qualified auction house to sell the oil paintings in the library’s art collection. Rankin said, in May, the deal with the Attorney General’s Office stems from the petition filed Sept. 16, 2015, by the James Prendergast Library Association with 8th Judicial District Surrogate Court Judge Stephen Cass. At the time, library officials filed the petition to obtain legal approval to sell art housed at the library. The oil paintings were purchased following the death of library founder Mary Prendergast in 1889. Prendergast left $25,000 to the executor of her will to purchase art for the library.

Rankin said the state Attorney General’s Office has oversight in New York state over nonprofit entities, like the library, and when the library board filed the petition for surrogate court’s permission to sell the artwork, the Attorney General’s Office was notified. The attorney general would only consent to a sale of the art collection if the library agreed to use an auction house that could market the collection nationally and internationally.