By Candice Russell
The April 26 and 27 spring event at Slotin Folk Art Auction in Buford Georgia proves once again that it is very much a buyers’ market when it comes to Haitian art. Of course, this may change in the future, once collectors tune in to how little money it takes to build a worthy collection. At Slotin, informed collectors found bargains among the small, select group of Haitian pieces in all media (but primarily paintings).
Two large paintings by the esteemed Wilson Bigaud — “Village by the River,” which went for $660, and “Washing in Town’s River,” which went for $720 — brought surprisingly low bids, both well under the low estimates of a mere $1,000 in each case. Congratulations to those buyers.
Yet “Village Day” by Adam Leontus, measuring 36 inches by 24 inches, only achieved a winning bid of $360. It deserved to command a much higher price, in my opinion. This superior painting by an artist rarely seen at auction or for sale anywhere generated less interest among bidders than the similar-sized, formulaic painting “Haitian Couple in White” by E. Louisius, which commanded a top bid of $540.
Also perplexing is the small amount of $240 for “Fantasy Animals” by Fritz Dominique, a framed painting measuring 28 inches by 34 inches. The low estimate was $800 and it sold for a little more than a quarter of that. Go to Port-au-Prince now and that is what you would pay for a Dominique painting in a gallery, if could find one. He is known for anthropomorphic animals in fascinating scenarios, just like the much more famous Jasmin Joseph.
Bourmond Byron’s two paintings presented an interesting case. His “Fruit Tree Over Fish Full River,” a tribute to Haiti’s natural bounty, brought a very respectable $1,800 — $300 more than the high estimate. But then the same artist’s much smaller painting, the framed “Long Winding Road,” only brought a victorious miniscule bid of $150, sadly under the $400 low estimate.
Bargains aplenty were to be had at the Slotin Folk Art Auction. Can you imagine paying a laughable $30 for “Cap Beach,” a seaside scene with people at leisure under palm trees? And this 16-inch by 21-inch painting in excellent condition is framed.
The large, evocative “Voodoo Snakes” by Paul Jean Pierre commanded just $540, a little more than half its low estimate of $1,000. While I’m not familiar with the artist, the painting itself is outstanding and certainly worth more than the winning bid.
Imagine taking home an Obin painting called “Planting Season” in the characteristic tidy style of this family of artists for just $300. Or a very respectable 1985 painting by La Fortune Felix — balanced and theatrical — for $660, undercutting the low estimate of $800.
Consider the case of another name artist working as a sculptor. An intricate Nacius Joseph wood sculpture called “Eve with Snake and Apple” was taken home by a lucky someone for just $30. Yet the high estimate for this one-of-a-kind piece (no template used here) was $400!
Several fine paintings by Gerard Fortune were also steals at the auction. The most impressive was “Voodoo Man,” measuring 40 inches by 30 inches. The winning bidder only shells out $450 for this notable treasure.
What does this mean for buyers in the future? Get on Slotin Folk Art Auction’s mailing list for its November event. The web site is www.slotinfolkart.com. The phone numbers are 770-532-1115 and 404-403-4244.
My feeling is that the more people know and love Haitian art, the better. So spread the word.