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LACMA deaccessions out-perform auction estimates

June 5, 2009 |  2:02 pm

Sothebys According to the indispensable, anonymously written and often very amusing art blog Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, Sotheby's New York auction of Old Master paintings, European sculpture and antiquities Thursday afternoon did better than expected on sales of 17 back-bench paintings deaccessioned from the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art -- which may, or may not, have any connection to said blog. Fourteen works sold, often for multiples of the (perhaps conservative?) estimates.

The highest price paid was $1.65 million, including buyer's premium, for Pieter de Hooch's moralizing 17th century genre scene showing a prosperous woman in a comfortable interior handing a coin to a servant, who has a tugging child in tow. The small, 28 3/4-by-26-inch oil was estimated at $400,000 to $600,000. The work has a lengthy provenance, passed among mostly Dutch collectors until coming to the United States in 1927. It had been in LACMA's collection since 1944, a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Allan C. Balch, important early benefactors of the museum.

LACMA on Fire says the total for the 14 works, including buyer's premium, was $5.8 million. I haven't verified the aggregate number -- you can do the math here -- but a spot check of quoted sales proved accurate. Income from the sales goes into the museum's acquisitions fund, which typically restricts expenditures to the same museum department (in this case, European art) from which the deaccessioned works came.

-- Christopher Knight

Above: Pieter de Hooch's work. Credit: Sotheby's

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