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Sotheby's To Sell Folk Art From The Ralph Esmerian Collection

November 5, 2013 Updated November 7, 2013

Sotheby's To Sell Folk Art From The Ralph Esmerian Collection

By Karl Pass

Printer

Sotheby's has announced it will hold the sale of the noted American folk art collection of Ralph Esmerian on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, at its Upper East Side headquarters in New York City. The preview will take place starting Saturday, Jan. 18, at its galleries located at 1334 York Ave. Titled "Visual Grace: Important Folk Art From the Collection of Ralph O. Esmerian," the sale will include over 200 items, including painted furniture, fraktur, carvings, weathervanes, needlework, portraits, ceramics, and more. The pre-sale estimate is $6.4 million to $9.5 million.
In 2010, Esmerian, the former president of the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) in New York City, pleaded guilty to a three-count indictment of wire fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and concealment of assets. He is currently serving a six-year prison sentence. The once-promised gift to AFAM, published in the 2001 book "American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum," included material ensconced in a scheme to embezzle and double-pledge assets as collateral. He had taken out loans in the hundreds of millions associated with his retail jewelry business, with much of the collection as security.
An agreement was met for AFAM to keep 53 items, while 212 once-promised items were awarded in the courts to Sotheby's through a liquidation trustee this past March.
Stay tuned to Antiques and Auction News for more on this story, to learn about what is considered by many to become one of most important auctions of American material culture ever conducted.