Dogs to the Highest Bidder
On a freezing morning in New York City, dog lovers left the warmth of their homes, and in many cases, took time away from the excitement of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at Madison Square Garden, to bid on their favorite breeds. Dog fanciers went toe-to-toe in auction for Otter Hounds and Irish Setters, for Saint Bernards and mixed breed terriers. The dogs were hung on the walls parlor-style, from floor to ceiling. The bidding went fast as the auctioneer raised the stakes – and the anticipation – with each sale.
But don’t call Animal Control just yet – these weren’t real dogs. The auction was for dog art, which has become hot – and haute – lately. Fine art depicting dogs has been around for hundreds of years, but today it is more in vogue than ever as dogs not only compliment a family, but also have become a critical part of it.
One such canine art auction took place at Bonhams Gallery’s “The Dog Sale,” timed perfectly with the events at Westminster. The room was filled with smartly-dressed men and women, quietly following the auctioneer’s lead as each painting or bronze came up for auction. Bonham’s staff manned the phones for out-of-town bidders, who seemed to be the high rollers of the day – as I stood there, a painting went for over $47,000 to someone on the phone.
I spied my good friend, psychologist Joel Gold of New York City, author of the book, “When Pets Come Between Partners,” and quietly slid onto the bench next to him. He was there to bid on two pieces that he had seen at the open house earlier, but one had just gone for more than he was willing to spend.
“I feel like someone has dropped me in an old movie,” said Gold. “Seeing the huge bucks fly is fascinating – I can’t even think of some of the money that’s in here. Learning about the art is also interesting.”
Bonhams did look like an old movie set – the small parlor was warm and inviting, with all the fancy gilded frames and charming painted dogs, and the auctioneer’s slight British accent cinched the scene. I went to get a catalog of the sale and by the time I got back, Gold had won a French painting of a hunter and three spaniels – an impulse buy. He said he was going to hang it in his office next to a 1910 pastel of a Labrador Retriever – Gold’s Lab passed on last year, but he still has two Bouviers.
I thought I’d better leave before I got tempted to make an impulse buy, so I bid Gold adieu (being the fancy dog art lover that I am) and went outside to hail a cab. I recognized a woman from inside the auction also trying to hail a cab, so I offered to share one with her, and it turned out that she was also going to Madison Square Garden to continue watching the dog show. It also turned out that she was the well-known all-breed judge, Polly Dorsey Smith, of St. Stephens Church, VA, and that her husband is going to judge the Eukanuba dog show in Long Beach this year. I had gotten into a cab with dog show royalty! Smith is a long-time collector of dog art, having over 50 pieces at home, and just having purchased a watercolor of two hounds and a mule.
“If you like dogs, you will obviously like dog art,” said Smith. “It’s sort of a history and story of life with dogs.”
by Nikki Moustaki
This article was originally published in Dog Fancy Magazine