Back in March I did a post about John Lennon’s artwork and text from In His Own Write and A Spaniard In The Works going on sale at Sotheby’s in New York. Yesterday I learned that earlier this week the sale raised $2.9 million, double the high estimate for what would be made. The sale went under the title of ‘You Might Well Arsk’ and was curated by Carey Wallace and Sarah Hodgson, the UK's foremost rock'n'roll memorabilia experts, on behalf of Tom Maschler, who edited both books and to whom John gave all the original artwork and hand-written (and badly-typed) text.
“We were delighted, but not surprised, that the sale was 100% sold,” Carey told me. When every lot in a sale is sold it is referred to in the trade as a 'white glove' sale and it was the first such sale of the 2014 season for Sotheby’s New York.
“It has been so much part of all of our lives, it made it all the more rewarding that the sale did so well,” added Carey. “We sat with Tom Maschler in the saleroom, and when the first 32 lots sold either at top estimate or just above, we were beginning to think that this would be the pattern for the sale. However, at lot 33, To my surprise the lady, got up – and flew away, things changed. From that moment on, the sale, like the lady – flew! Tom said to us afterwards, with a twinkle in his eye: ‘I thought your estimates were pretty good up until lot 33 then you lost your touch!’”
The auction and view were held on the seventh floor of Sotheby’s impressive York Avenue building. The view, like the travelling exhibition in Sotheby’s London, was beautifully displayed, with each drawing and the majority of manuscripts custom mounted and framed, sympathetically hung and beautifully lit. As is the norm for Sotheby’s New York auctions, the room itself on the day was not overcrowded, though there were a significant number of online bidders and, as well as numerous commission bids. There was also competition from telephone bidders, several of whom appeared to stay on the phone for much of the sale. As the sale progressed, bidding became noticeably more competitive as bidders became increasingly anxious to secure one of the 89 lots on offer. The auction was taken by the appropriately named Ben Dollar, who seemed to enjoy the competitive atmosphere, and whose banter with the phone bidders amused those in the room. Immediately after the sale, Mr Dollar was presented with a pair of white gloves, signifying that the sale was 100% sold.
“Tom Maschler always felt that while Lennon’s writing was feted by the critics, his art had always been underrated,” adds Carey. “We are delighted that the prices achieved at this auction have effectively redressed this balance.”
The lot that fetched the highest bid was the one-page manuscript for ‘The Singular Experience of Miss Anne Duffield’ which fetched $209,000 or £122,000. A full break down of the prices at the sale can be found here: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/2014/so-lennon-manuscripts-sale-n09156.html#&page=all&sort