Harry Bertoia Steel Spray Sculpture with Aluminum Base, ca. 1960

Value (2009) | $10,000 Auction

GUEST:
From what I can tell, it's a stainless steel piece of sculpture on an aluminum base. And I acquired it from an estate auction in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, about six years ago. It was displayed just like this. There was no picture of it in the estate auction. It was just a listing of pieces that were there. It used to sit in our family room, and then I had to move it into my office, because my daughter decided to use it to bust balloons at a sleepover she had with some friends. So after that, I put it in my office for safekeeping.

APPRAISER:
This is definitely alive. It caught my eye immediately. I have handled these before. I've seen the artist's work many times, but it's unsigned.

GUEST:
Correct.

APPRAISER:
You'd mentioned you couldn't find a mark on it. No marking, no symbol or signature or anything. This is made by Harry Bertoia. He was born in Italy and traveled to Detroit and ended up staying there, studying at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, and then moving on to Cranbrook. This was later in his career. He started out making jewelry at first, believe it or not.

GUEST:
Really? Wow.

APPRAISER:
And he was working in metals, and then with World War II coming on, metals were hard to come by. And he met some people at Cranbrook, Charles and Ray Eames.

GUEST:
Oh, yes, yes.

APPRAISER:
Of Eames Furniture.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
So he started working in wood, which was easy to get during wartime.

GUEST:
Sure.

APPRAISER:
Ended up with a company, Knowle Furniture, and they let him work in metals, and he was comfortable there and really came into his own. Later in his career, in the 1960s, he was doing this sort of sculpture. He was doing, what these are called are spray sculptures.

GUEST:
Spray, okay.

APPRAISER:
It's steel rods, and they're set in an aluminum base.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Any idea to the value?

GUEST:
I thought maybe it was one of his, but I wasn't really sure. I paid ten dollars for it.

APPRAISER:
You paid ten?

GUEST:
Yes, sir.

APPRAISER:
All right, well, you did very well. And I figured anything above that is lucky for me. If this were to go to auction today, I anticipate this would bring close to $10,000.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
So that's quite a return on your $10 investment.

GUEST:
That is quite a return, oh, my gosh.

APPRAISER:
That's great, I'm glad you shared that.

GUEST:
Thank you.

APPRAISER:
This is a movement sculpture.

GUEST:
Can you give us an idea of how it can play?

APPRAISER:
Oh, sure can. If you just take it and grab it by the base...

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And just give it a little touch... So subtle, you don't need much.

It doesn't take much at all. And then it just goes for however long it wants to go.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
DuMouchelles Gallery
Detroit, MI
Appraised value (2009)
$10,000 Auction
Event
Raleigh, NC (June 27, 2009)
Period
20th Century
Form
Sculpture
Material
Aluminum, Steel
March 22, 2010: After this segment aired on January 4, 2010, a viewer wrote in to raise a question about the authenticity of this object, a steel spray sculpture that appraiser Robert DuMouchelle attributed to artist Harry Bertoia. After looking into the issue further and talking again with DuMouchelle and Jon Sollo, another expert who saw the sculpture at the June 2009 Raleigh ROADSHOW event, we’ve determined there is a legitimate question as to whether the object is an authentic example of Bertoia’s work. In order to bring the object to market as a true Bertoia sculpture, a more formal authentication process would need to be conducted, including comparisons with other known works by Bertoia.

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