July 26 (Bloomberg) -- Ten days before art dealer Lawrence Salander is scheduled be sentenced to prison for fraud and grand larceny, the contents of his Millbrook, New York, home were liquidated in an oddly festive auction.
Weekenders competed against antique dealers at Stair Galleries, in Hudson, New York, 115 miles north of Manhattan, on Saturday. Just two of 251 lots didn’t sell. The $245,000 total easily topped Stair’s high pre-sale estimate of $148,000.
The three-hour affair, replete with complimentary bagels and sandwiches, was to benefit creditors of Salander’s personal bankruptcy case.
Most items generated multiple bids, but it’s unclear how prices compared with what Salander paid in the international shopping spree that preceded his collapse.
The two top lots were a black Steinway baby grand piano and a large Chinese decorative vase, each for $10,000. (All prices exclude the 15 percent buyer’s commission, or 17 percent when paying by credit card.)
“I’m thrilled,” said Thomas Genova, the trustee overseeing Salander’s personal bankruptcy. “It was a great sale.”
Bidders at the second-floor salesroom wore shorts, running sneakers, flip-flops, madras shirts and oversized summer hats.
Canines in tow largely got along, including a greyhound, Labrador, Irish terrier and Stair’s resident bullmastiff, Duke. Colin Stair, Stair Galleries’ president, said there were several telephone bidders in Europe.
Additional sales are likely. Although Salander and his Salander-O’Reilly Galleries filed for bankruptcy in November 2007 amid a cascade of lawsuits, more than 2,000 artworks recovered from the now-defunct Upper East Side gallery remain unsold. And Genova is in talks with mortgage holders First Republic Bank and Wells Fargo & Co.’s Wachovia unit about a September auction of Salander’s 66-acre Millbrook home, which has been listed for sale at $4.5 million.
Salander, 61, has been living in an apartment over a gallery he operates in Millbrook.
The first lot on Saturday went to Tracie Rozhon, a former New York Times reporter, who a day earlier closed on a house with her husband in Albany. She paid $425 for a pair of Ming-style celadon vase lamps, but was stymied when she pursued a Herend porcelain dinner set.
“It was estimated at $150 to $200,” she said. “I got outbid at $2,000.”
Candlesticks known as pricket sticks were also hot. A pair of Italian baroque brass ones went for $2,500. Another pair sold for $2,800.
“Who knew pricket sticks were so popular?” said Stair auctioneer Rebecca Hoffmann, in an interview. “It was just hilarious after a while.”
Paintings that Salander created also attracted fierce bidding, with a 2008 portrait of one his former bankruptcy lawyers (“Johnny Moscow Truth Defender”) selling for $500 and the 1999 landscape “Top of the Mountain” going for $800.
Ron Gersten, who worked for Salander in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said the dealer told him in a recent telephone conversation that Michelangelo may have been behind some of the pricket sticks. Gersten said Salander also thought that Donatello may have created a plaster Madonna and Child that Gersten bought for $6,500 at the sale. (The Stair catalog doesn’t attribute either to any artist.)
Salander declared bankruptcy amid lawsuits alleging that he sold works he didn’t own and pocketed proceeds. There were also allegations that he misrepresented the provenance of works and engaged in fraudulent art-related investment schemes.
In March 2010, he pleaded guilty to stealing $120 million from such clients as John McEnroe and Robert De Niro. He’s to be sentenced on Aug. 3.
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