11/21/2013 4:01PM

Keeneland art auction grosses over $3 million

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Keeneland held its inaugural Sporting Art Auction Wednesday at its sales pavilion in Lexington, Ky., and officials said that they were satisfied with the $3.11 million in proceeds despite the fact that several seven-figure items went unsold.

The auction, conducted by Keeneland and Lexington-based Cross Gate Gallery, featured 174 lots comprising sporting art – much of which was horse racing-related – American paintings, and a variety of sculptures. Representative works from the collection were on display and lined the walls of Keeneland’s sales pavilion during the recently completed November breeding stock sale.

The two marquee pieces in the collection generated a level of bidding appropriate to Keeneland’s elite Thoroughbred auctions but fell short of their reserves. Marsh Hawk, painted by Andrew Wyeth in 1964, drew a final bid of $4.8 million, while Children Playing with a Cat, a 1908 Impressionist work from Mary Cassatt, elicited a bid of $4.7 million. Both paintings were listed in the auction catalog as valued at more than $5 million, and Cross Gate Gallery owner Greg Ladd told the Lexington Herald-Leader that company officials would continue to work with the owner of both works and the bidders to complete a sale privately.

A 7-by-17-foot ceramic tile mural from the late and renowned sports artist LeRoy Neiman titled “Flat Racing” brought the highest price at the auction, selling for $291,000. The 1970s-era work depicting a stretch duel between three Thoroughbreds was originally commissioned by Charles Bidwill, owner of the now-demolished Sportsman’s Park in Chicago, Ill., and previously was displayed at the racetrack.

According to Walt Robertson, Keeneland’s vice president of sales, 81 percent of the offered works of art sold, with 48 percent bringing final bids that exceeded the catalog estimated value. Keeneland and Cross Gate plan to conduct the auction on an annual basis going forward.