June 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of Stair Galleries in Hudson. In celebration of this milestone, Colin Stair reflects on memorable moments and selects a favorite lot from each of our twenty years. In reminiscing, he reminds us that it is not the price an item achieves that makes it remarkable, but the stories it can tell about the collectors, their lives, and the people and objects with which they chose to surround themselves. These are what give an object its true value and what we hope to continue to pass on to our clients at Stair.
October 20, 2001
LOT 1: Pair of Chamberlain Worcester Soup Plates in the Bengal Tiger pattern
Sold for $1,100
Over 200 enthusiastic bidders participated in Stair Galleries’ first auction on October 20th at the Hudson Elks Club. Most of the crowd remained to see all 481 lots auctioned from various owners and the estate of Frederick W. Hughes. Much of the porcelain flew off the block, including the first lot I sold as an auctioneer – a pair of Chamberlain Worcester soup plates in the Bengal Tiger pattern for $1,100.
May 25, 2002
LOT 20: Attributed to Paul Seifert, Late 19th Century, Watercolor on paper
Sold for $58,000
In our second year, we achieved an exciting then-record price for a watercolor of a Wisconsin farmstead by Paul Seifert for $58,000. It was a beautiful work and acquired by Americana dealer David Wheatcroft.
September 6, 2003
LOT 37: Fine Edwardian Rosewood and Marquetry Inlaid Yew Beau Brummel
Sold for $6,000
The September sale in 2003 featured a fine selection of English, Americana, and Continental furniture and paintings from several regional estates. A group of exceptional lots came from one consignor who purchased his treasures in London, circa 1958. One included a set of ten mahogany chairs from The Rt Hon the Viscount Downe at Wykeham Abbey, Yorkshire and sold for $66,125 against an estimate of $10,000-15,000. Lot 37 stands out to me as a beautiful example of its time.
December 4, 2004
LOT 87: Pair of Painted Hollow Cast-Iron Dalmatians
Sold for $9,000
Seven large sales kept us hard at work throughout 2004. Our December sale included a grand selection of 19thCentury figural garden statuary from an East Coast estate. My favorite lot of the group was a pair of lovely painted cast-iron dalmatians. I can never resist a good dog sculpture!
September 17, 2005
LOT 101: Pair of Neoclassical Gilt-Metal Mounted Porphyry Urns
Sold for $36,000
The year 2005 was a big one at Stair Galleries as it saw us moving into our new home at 549 Warren Street. We purchased the building in the spring of that year and had our first sale on September 17th – my birthday! One of my favorite lots was 101, a pair of porphyry urns which belonged to former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco, J.V. Reed. We found this pair in separate parts in the basement of his home and brought them back together for the auction.
April 22, 2006
LOT 79: Joseph H. Boston (1859-1954): Country Afternoon, oil on canvas
Sold for $16,000
Our first fine art sale was in 2006. It was a local collection from the Van Loan Family – one of the oldest families who settled Greene County, New York in the 18th century. In 1911, Thomas Van Loan, a prominent spice and coffee merchant, sold his residence in Brooklyn and dispatched a large and valuable collection of paintings and objets d’art to his ancestral home in Athens, New York – in effect creating a private museum. This tranquil country landscape was a highlight of the sale.
March 10, 2007
Lot 69: Louis XV Gilt-Metal-Mounted and Inlaid Tulipwood Commode
Sold for $8,500
March of this year featured a large collection of French and Continental Furniture and decorations. A group of items came from the Estate of Bob Guccione, an American photographer and publisher and founder of Penthouse magazine. While this tulipwood commode was not part of his collection, the piece stood out as one of my favorites. It was in great condition with a beautiful marble top and great color.
June 7, 2008
LOT 236: Pair of English Coade Stone Finials Urns
Sold for $17,000
In June of 2008 we offered a large collection of European furniture, and most interesting, a wonderful collection of garden ornaments from the defunct Salander-O’Reilly Gallery. This pair of Coade Stone finial urns was a favorite of mine from the sale. Coade Stone was a type of artificial stone created and manufactured by a woman named Eleanor Coade in the 18th century. Her successful business was responsible for providing many of the stone decorations for important homes in the UK during her time and beyond.
March 27 & 28, 2009
LOT 1115: Baroque-Style Carved Ivory-Veneered Architectural Pedestal
Sold for $1,200
This sale included property from Cynthia Phipps – thoroughbred breeder and sister of Lily Pulitzer, Mrs. Gordon Getty of the Getty Family, and the first group from the collection of Paul F. Walter – a well-respected American scholar and collector. With exceptional property from a variety of individuals, so many pieces stand out, but perhaps most interesting was this ivory-veneered architectural pedestal. The seemingly unassuming piece was purchased by a dealer who successfully reunited the base with its corresponding sculpture at the Met Museum. He called us to let us know about his triumph and was delighted with the success.
June 26, 2010
LOT 360: Pair of French Carved Limestone Figures of Recumbent Lions
Sold for $11,000
Our ninth year found us holding more and more sales and the one that stands out this year is the collection of legendary Hollywood producer Douglas S. Cramer and his partner, artist and writer, Hugh Bush. This was the first sale for which we produced and printed and bound auction catalogue – an exciting moment for us. Cramer and Bush sold the contents of their Connecticut estate, Dogwood Farm, with us and this incredible pair of carved limestone figures of lions was a highlight for me. They are likely 17th century from Normandy, France. The detail is exceptional.
May 13, 2011
LOT 114: Two Venetian Rococo Style Carved Swan-Form Chairs
Sold for $4,250
Sometimes it’s not how much an item achieves here at Stair but the personality attached to a work! This pair of fanciful chairs, one shown here, was from the collection of Margaret Burden Childs (also known as Muff Childs). She was a client of mine at Sotheby’s Restoration and we went on to sell the contents of her Mark Hampton-designed Connecticut home when she sold it. Sadly, she passed away two years ago and this autumn we are selling the contents of her New York apartment. As one of the nicest clients we had, her style lives on in my mind – and I won’t forget the vintage bottle of champagne she would send me once a year either!
October 5, 2012
Property from the Collection of Keith Irvine
This October sale featured the collection of the late Keith Irvine – a legendary designer with the interior design firm Irvine & Fleming. We helped his wife Chippy clear out their country home – a plethora of over-the-top regency and pseudo-Georgian fabulousness. Chippy visited us at the gallery to host a well-attended talk on Keith’s work. In this business, it is all about the people and the creative lives they lead and build.
February 16, 2013
LOT 1015: Maurice Beck and Helen MacGregor: The Faun, Valentino, c. 1920, Black and white vintage photograph
Sold for $5,100
This sale offered further material from the now late Jan Cowles, a noted collector and philanthropist, which was primarily consigned property from her son, Charlie Cowles. The photography collection spanned the entire 20th century, but I believe this black and white photograph epitomizes the inspiration behind the collection.
September 27, 2014
LOT 178: Mark Beard (b. 1956): Henry Hudson Runs the Half Moon Aground, Gentrification of Hudson Begins, oil on board
Sold for $5,000
Another successful year with a variety of objects sold at Stair! The sale that stands out for me was our September 27th sale, Classicism to Contemporary, of the collection of my dear friends Ashton Hawkins and Johnnie Moore. Hawkins served as counsel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1969 to 2001. This spectacular painting by Mark Beard was a gift from the artist and, to me, exemplifies everything about the renaissance here in Hudson – at least the fun parts!
November 14, 2015
In 2015 we began to break stride with our single-owner sales. One of the most memorable was Property from Cornelia Guest, Formerly the Collection of Winston & C.Z. Guest, Templeton. This was the sale of the contents of the exemplarily styled Templeton house belonging to the Guest family in Long Island. I became fast friends with C.Z.’s daughter, Cornelia, and she led me through a fabulous journey of American social history. It is impossible to pick one lot from this sale, but this photograph illustrates everything you need to know about the timeless style and meticulous entertaining for which the Guest family is known.
September 24, 2016
LOT 377: An Important Feather-Mounted Mirror, Designed and Created by Bill Cunningham
Sold for $13,000
Our September sale, titled Long on Style, included material from the collections of William Frawley, Phillips Hathaway and Kenneth Paul Block. Block was a celebrated fashion illustrator and primarily worked with Women’s Wear Daily and W Magazine. This distinctive feather mirror, a gift to Block, was the work of legendary street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham. A milliner in the 1950s, Cunningham was known to have created several pieces of furniture and other artworks as well. While I never got to meet Paul Block, he was an extraordinarily gifted man with excellent taste. His legacy lives on through this sale.
June 3, 2017
Property from the Camilla and Earl McGrath Collection
June 24, 2017
The Collection of Keith & Patti Richards
November 11, 2017
The Collection of Paul F. Walter
This year was particularly tough to choose one favorite as our success with single-owner collections continued. These three sales were my favorites of 2017 as they each exemplified these collectors’ keen eyes and individual spirit across multiple collecting categories. The photograph here is a featured shot from the XX sale, but the objects offered in each auction included Italian neoclassical sculpture and paintings, English pottery, Southeast Asian artifacts, English and Continental furniture, and contemporary works of art by artists such as Bruce Nauman and Robert Graham. Once again, these sales are another example of how people drive this business.
November 3, 2018
Lot 246: Attributed to and Studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792): Portrait of John Lockhart Ross, Sixth Baronet, oil on canvas
Sold for $25,000
This was a hidden treasure I noticed tucked away with other paintings in the back corner of an attic in a three-story house in Bronxville, New York. They were from the estate of James W. DeLasho; a dozen other portraits came in from the same estate, but this was a highlight for me. The consignors were delightful and thrilled with the results of the sale – which is the most you can ask for on a large consignment.
March 23, 2019
LOT 53: Fine German Rococo Glass Beadwork Tilt-Top Table, Johann Michael van Selow, Braunschweig
Sold for $48,000
The highlight of 2019 was the first sale from Mrs. John Gutfreund’s home in Pennsylvania, Murray House. Mrs. Gutfreund was an incredibly fascinating woman with exceptional taste and was another great consginor. I remember throwing a dinner party in Hudson and inviting her to come, not expecting her to make the trip. However, sure enough, she came to dinner with Lucky the dog and we had a great time! My favorite object was hands-down lot 53, this fabulous German Rococo glass beadwork table. The attention to detail is incredible and several close examples sold at Sotheby’s. The sale performed exceptionally well and we went on to sell more of Mrs. Gutfreund’s property two years later.
September 17, 2020
LOT 35: Christian Bérard (1902-1949): Damia, oil on canvas
Sold for $32,500
Another birthday-day sale and one of my top three favorite sales of all time – John Richardson: A Scholar Collects. Richardson was a noted scholar and Picasso biographer. This opportunity for this sale came right at the start of the pandemic. I spent two weeks with our fine art specialist, Lisa Thomas, sorting through the warehouse with our men – who also did extraordinary job delivering the collection here. I enjoyed every inch of the aesthetic of this sale. As we sorted through the items, Lisa and I knew this sale had legs – it just needed to be cleaned up and given the Stair touch! This exceptional portrait was the highlight of the sale for me.
April 8, 2021
Lot 8: Rare American Wrought Iron Garden Gate Designed by William Adams Delano (1874-1960)
Sold for $36,000
We come to the current year – and this year we were able to have our own Garden Sale – fitting for the moment in which people are outfitting their private outdoor spaces to host small gatherings and find creative ways to get outdoors. Among the most fabulous lots of this sale was a rare American garden gate designed by the architect William Adams Delano for his personal garden in Long Island. Delano is associated with the Beaux-Arts style and was partners with Chester Holmes Aldrich of the firm Delano & Aldrich, responsible for several Rockefeller commissions and other great buildings in the New York area and Northeast.