Magic, Mystery at Rago’s ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ auction in Lambertville

Tiger head carving and 19th C. French musical automaton

The spotlight is on the unusual and bizarre when Rago Auctions in Lambertville hosts “Curiouser and Curiouser: Fine and Outsider Art. Exceptional Objectson Saturday, Dec. 1.

The auction is filled with beautiful, intriguing and remarkable objects, as well as significant discoveries.

The most important of these according to Rago is the previously unidentified 43-inch high figure of a young boy, ca 1840, by Asa Ames (1823-1851). Relatively unknown until the American Folk Art Museum’s 2008 exhibit Asa Ames: Occupation Sculpturing, today Ames is an icon in the folk art field. Despite the acclaim and publicity that followed this exhibition, no other works by Ames have surfaced until now.

Asa Ames (Attr.),
Carved & Painted Boy

A few of the many outsider artists presented in the sale are Morton Bartlett, Vestie Davis, Lonnie Holley, William Kent, the Philadelphia Wireman, Royal Robertson, Daniel E. (Don) Rohrig, Jon Serl, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Mose Tolliver, and a selection of work from Purvis Young. 

The fine art selected by Marion Harris, specialist-in-charge, and Miriam Tucker, Rago’s partner-in-charge, includes work from Jon Brooks, Harrison Cady, Robert Winthrop Chanler, Huang Guang, Sergei Isupov, Alan Macdonald, Mu Jun, Judith Schaechter, Maurice Sendak, and Newbold Trotter. Of particular interest are the six original panels from the first underground comix story penned by Joe Coleman.

William Kent, oversized carved walnut insect

The sale also brings to market seven automatons and the selection of articulated artist mannequins for which “Curiouser and Curiouser” is known, with palm-size to life-size human figures, as well as a handsome articulated horse.

Other highlights include: a graphic American folk art fan embroidered with political, encrypted messages, and four enormous mid-century American woodblocks used to print broadside circus posters. There is other carnival, circus and sideshow art, along with medical, scientific and botanical items, advertising art, propaganda art and erotica.

Purvis Young, untitled drawing from book

“Major institutions including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York have all presented major exhibitions of outsider art this year, featuring once unknown and now iconic artists such as Morton Bartlett, Lonnie Holley and Purvis Young – all of whom we are also pleased to offer in this sale,” said Miriam Tucker, Partner-in-Charge.

The auction takes place on Dec. 1. at 10 a.m. The auction exhibition/preview is Nov. 24 – Nov. 28, 12–5 p.m.,  and Nov. 29, 12-7 p.m. Doors open at 9 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30 & Dec. 1.
Located in Lambertville, Rago is a leading U.S. auction house with $33 million in annual sales.

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