Monthly Archives: November 2007

My Annual In-Home Art Sale

November 23, 2007

This weekend begins my annual in-home sale of Haitian art, which extends for three additional weekends after that, ending on Sunday,December 16th. All days the show is on from 12 noon to 6 p.m. Anyone interested in Haitian art is invited, so please contact me for driving directions or to be mailed a postcard.

In the nineteenth year of sales like this in my west Broward County home in South Florida, I am trying to do things a bit differently this time. During the first weekend, prices on everything are discounted 15per cent. This is a direct appeal to bargain hunters and holiday gift shoppers with an eye for the unusual and unique. Original Haitian art appeals to collectors and casual buyers who might not know much about the subject. With prices ranging from $15 up to $10,000, the artworks include paintings, Vodou flags, wood sculptures, mixed media sculptures by the great Lionel Saint Eloi, metal sculptures to Tomas Petit (who does wonderful crosses like those found in the cemetery in Croix-des-Bouquets, and catalogs of museum exhibitions devoted to Haitian art, which cannot be found in bookstores or even the museums where the shows were held because they’re out of print.

The second weekend of the show, December 1st and 2nd, I will lecture about Haitian art at 3 p.m. on both days, bringing out items from my personal collection, many of which haven’t been exhibited before. I’ll touch briefly upon Haitian history with an emphasis on the significance of Vodou as expressed visually by artists of surpassing genius.

The third weekend of the show, Saturday December 8th and Sunday December 9th, is the time to come to bring your Haitian art for an appraisal. If it’s too big or cumbersome to load and carry in your car, bring a photo and we’ll do on-the-spot research in catalogs and look up obscure names. Here’s a chance for you to know what you have and what you treasure — a masterpiece or a piece of minimal value?

The Children of Haiti Enhancement Foundation, a non-profit charity based in Miami under the leadership of Haitian-American Elsie Craig,is the focus of the fourth and final weekend of the sale on Saturday,December 15th and Sunday, December 16th. Special items not put out other weekends will be available for purchase at modest starting prices in a silent auction, with most or all of the proceeds going to this outstanding organization that supplies school children in Haiti with the tools they need in school to be successful, along with meals.Many of these children are in remote mountain villages, which Craig has visited. One place took her all day to reach on foot! Large photos of the children will be on display.

If you can’t make this superior sale, please contact me for a free photo packet customized to your needs. Most of my artwork won’t make it on the web site due to size limitations for shipping and other considerations. My friend, Mr. Lange Rosner in Haiti, is buying items for me as this is being written. Future shipments from Haiti will bring more wonderful artworks. What a way to celebrate the holiday season!

–Candice Russell

Unbelievable Bargains on Haitian Art

November 20, 2007

Unbelievable bargains on Haitian art were part of the early November event in Georgia largely devoted to the personal collection of American filmmaker Jonathan Demme. He put up for bid a number of precious holdings at the Slotin Folk Art Auction in Buford, Georgia on November 10th, with the result that those in the bidding hall or bidding by telephone had an opportunity to pick up some very fine artworks by Haitian masters for less than their going value on multiple web sites.

Case in point: the magnificent color cover of the catalog is Pauleus Vital’s exceptional painting “Judgement Day,” measuring 26 inches by31 inches. It went for a laughably low $8,000 — its low estimate.Wilson Bigaud’s “Marriage at Cana” (#336 in the catalog), measuring 41inches by 32 inches, sold for an amazingly modest $1,400. Wonderful sculptures in metal by the inventor of the medium, Georges Liautaud,ranged from $600 to $2,000 — again way off the mark at galleries and web sites.

If you were a collector, you won out. Gustavo Ponzoa of Miramar,Florida was our man on the scene. He was amazed at what he calls the”disproportionate” prices between items of the same size and quality by the same artist — some going for under the value, some others going for much more than the value. All of the Haitian pieces, in his opinion, were “absolutely under-bid.” For the scandalously good price of $300, Ponzoa walked away with a 24-inch by 24-inch painting called”Multiple Village Figures” (#586 in the catalog) for just $300. He also got the painting “Wolf and Sheep” (#748 in the catalog) for a mere $200. “It was like a surprise box — you never knew what you were getting,” says Ponzoa in his description of the prices pieces brought.

Even so, he liked the experience. “It was a lot of fun and went very quickly,” says Ponzoa, who also won on his bids for a small folk art”Lion” painting by American artist Malcah Zeldis for a bargain $125.

But how can one explain a Gerard “Nativity” painting going for $250?This makes no sense. Selden Rodman, the late author and expert on Haitian art, must be turning over in his grave, since he so championed Gerard as one of the great naive painters. Which he still is! I don’t know if Peters Stephane is any relation to Micius Stephane, but this artist’s “Mother and Kids” painting, measuring ten inches by twelve inches, went for a criminal $25 — that’s right, $25! The estimate for this superb little work was between $800 to $1,200.

Also inexplicable were the prices brought by Vodou items, including flags by unnamed artists ranging from “Rice” for $250 to $2,000 for”Two Blue Snakes.” Doll shrines by the lauded Pierrot Barra, some more aesthetically pleasing than others, ranged from $275 to $600 — again under-priced, especially if you asked Donald Cosentino, the University of California at Los Angeles professor who wrote a book about works by Barra and his wife Marie Cassise.

What to make of this auction and these prices? It’s only a true bellwether of the market if a large number of Haitian art collectors and museum curators were aware of the auction and participating in it.Ponzoa reports there were only a few in the hall with him during the auction.

–Candice Russell

Major Haitian Art Event

November 8, 2007

A major Haitian art event is taking place on Saturday, November 10that Historic Buford Hall in Buford, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. The Slotin Folk Art Auction for that particular day is heavily laden with items in American folk art and Haitian masterpieces from the personal collection of filmmaker and Haitian human rights defender Jonathan Demme. On the cover of the full-color catalog is a stellar painting featured in the show co-curated by myself and Axelle Liautaud in 2006at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach, Florida — “Judgement Day”(1983) by Pauleus Vital. This incredible work features zombies bursting out of multi-colored coffins in a cemetery and making their way up twin staircases with very different ends, as one group appears to march toward heaven and the others to hell It is estimated to bring in between $8,000 to $12,000.

But as with all items at Slotin Folk Art Auctions, there is no reserve. So if a bidder gets lucky, he or she may walk away with a highly valued artwork for less than the estimate. Also featured in the auction are two lovely Wilson Bigaud paintings including “Lady in the Rose Garden” (1981), estimated at between $1,000 and $2,000 and”Marriage at Cana” (c. 1981), with an estimate of $2,000 to $4,000.Both prices seem low.

A very unusual “Papa Zaka” painting by the underrated Bourmond Byron, a painting called “Twa Zonbi” by Abel Michel inspired by the original painting by Hector Hyppolite of zombies being led from a cemetery, a charming Alexandre Gregoire “In the Garden” and “Nativity” by Gerard make this auction one to watch, if only to gauge the strength of the market in Haitian art. Of course, it all depends on how many Haitian art lovers know about the auction and decide to participate as bidders, either in person or by telephone.

Demme put up some rarities on the auction block, too, including”Monument” (c. 1963) by Florence Martinez and the exceptionally beautiful “Dambala Wedo” in the old-school palette by Andre Pierre.Under-priced works in iron and metal by the pioneer who started this genre of sculptures, Georges Liautaud, and his successor Serge Jolimeau are also up for bid. From crosses both embellished and plain,figurative pieces like mermaids and a creature dubbed “Metamorphosis,”and paintings by Etienne Chavannes, one of Demme’s favorite artists,this auction is worth checking out, even after the fact to see what prices actually materialized once the hammer came down.

Other notable paintings by Jerome Polycarpe, Gerard Paul, Roi David Annissey, Ulrick Jean, G. Leveque, and Fernand Pierre are included inthe offerings. Lesser known artists are included in Demme’s collectionas well. He has a remarkable eye that applies to Vodou flags, with tasty representations of “Mermaid,” “Kok Lavalas,” and “Tambou Verite.” Mixed media sculptures by Pierrot Barra using doll heads are part of this eclectic mix. The auction should be fun and the results worth careful contemplation.

— Candice Russell