Going Once, Going Twice...
Leslie Hindman is neck deep in stuff. but with auction houses across the country, that’s exactly how she likes it.
There’s fine jewelry and contemporary paintings. Period French furniture and rare books. She sold furnishings from Broadway composer Cole Porter’s home, sports memorabilia from Comiskey Park and the Schwinn family bicycle collection. The stuff—as New York antique furniture dealer Albert M. Sack once called it—is Hindman’s life, and the desire to find the perfect treasure to add to someone’s personal collection is what keeps her going.
Hindman (pronounced Hyndman) is president and CEO of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, which just finished its first full season of auctions in its second floor gallery in Old Naples. Hindman, 57, founded her first auction house in 1982, but eventually sold it to Sotheby’s in 1997. Her love of the industry sparked her to reopen Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in 2003. The firm now has locations in Chicago, Milwaukee, Denver and Palm Beach, as well as Naples.
Hindman talked with Gulfshore Life about some of her favorite sales over the years, including a few in Naples.
Fashionably Charitable This is the auction Hindman will never forget. In 2010, Hindman oversaw the sale of “thousands and thousands of wonderful dresses” and accessories collected by Eunice W. Johnson—the co-founder of Ebony and Jet magazines—dating back to the 1960s. Johnson had a special place in her heart for fashion and was the founder of the Ebony Fashion Fair, an annual tour of couture for black women. The tour highlighted black designers and raised $50 million for charity.
Hidden Beneath the Bed Hindman found a unique piece of art in an unlikely place on one visit to a Chicago suburb. The auctioneer was speaking to clients when she asked if there was anything more they wanted to show her. Lo and behold there was, and the pair pulled a painting by Wassily Kandinsky, the father of abstraction, out from under the bed. The painting, Composition No. 26, sold for $454,000 in 2011.
Crocodile Blues The sale of a blue Hermès bag brings a smile to Hindman’s face. The blue Brighton crocodile Birkin bag had an estimated sale price of $30,000 to $50,000 when it was up for auction during the Chicago Vintage Couture and Accessories sale in 2010. The bag—which featured palladium hardware—fetched $30,500.
Unknown Still Life Brings International Acclaim A previously unknown piece by Vincent van Gogh brought Hindman’s auction house international attention in the early 1990s. Hindman found the still life—a green vase filled with flowers—in a Milwaukee home. The small 1886 canvas was signed with a “V,” not “Vincent” in van Gogh’s typical fashion. But once it was authenticated, the work sold for $1.43 million in 1991.
A WalMart Greeter’s Visit Hindman said a woman stopped by her auction house a while back with some unique items. The woman, a WalMart greeter, lived in an average house, but had a rare Lotus pattern Tiffany lamp and a small Chinese, jade carved boulder. The firm estimated the boulder would sell for between $20,000 and $40,000. It brought in $207,000. The lamp fetched $97,600. The kicker, says Hindman: “The woman kept her job at WalMart.”
Southern Impressionism Hindman ranks the sale of a Julian Onderdonk painting in her top five most memorable sales. Bluebonnets, the 1913 oil painting by the Texas impressionist, was estimated to sell for between $70,000 and $90,000 when it went to auction in 2010. The canvas eventually fetched $258,400, nearly three times more than expected.
Rhinoceros Horns Hindman said every day brings in new surprises. Take the recent Asian artwork sale, for example. The auctioneer said a seller brought in a Chinese cup carved from a rhinoceros horn his grandfather had acquired. That cup sold for $394,000. Says Hindman: “You never know what you will see.”
THE NAPLES MARKET
Curb Appeal Parked outside 1300 Third St. S., the 1989 black Bentley Continental convertible was one of the most anticipated pieces up for auction during the March 16 Naples sale. With just 13,252 miles on the odometer, the car brought in $67,000—more than the $40,000 to $60,000 auctioneers estimated.
A Local’s Sale When a Yaacov Agam print was auctioned off in Naples in March, there was a chance the buyer wouldn’t have to move it far. Liberty #1 came from a local private estate and was estimated to sell for between $400 and $600. The piece—one of Agam’s famed agamagraphs—eventually sold for $527.
Not Your Everyday Silverware One lucky buyer had some special silver to use during the holidays last year when a private collector approached Hindman’s Naples auctioneers to sell a Tiffany & Co. American sterling silver flatware with service for 12. The flatware was crafted in an English King pattern and was estimated to sell for between $3,000 and $5,000. It sold during the Dec. 15 sale for $6,820.
Falling for Marilyn One of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn silk screens from the Sunday B Morning series was up for auction in March. The 36-inch by 36-inch piece from a private Boca Raton collector was expected to sell for anywhere between $600 and $800. The piece fell short of the asking price, however, only selling for $366.
What Sells here
Naples, Hindman says, is great, especially for jewelry sales.
“Women who play a lot of golf tell us they no longer need a lot of jewelry, so they are willing to sell everything from a big 10-carat diamond ring to bracelets and pearls,” she says.
The auction house does three sales of 500 lots a year at the Naples gallery, and Hindman says the firm often worries about not getting enough to sell, “not about selling it.” The rise of online auctions means about 80 percent of what the firm sells locally is sold to out of town buyers.
Never been to an auction before? Hindman says auction houses shouldn’t be feared, and buyers should have a good time without breaking the bank.
“Buy the best you can afford. Buy quality, not quantity,” she says. “Seek expert advice. Never buy on impulse.”