THROUGH THE VOICE OF HAMLET, Shakespeare mused, “The cat will mew and dog will have his day.” Now, thanks to the efforts of Skinner, Inc., one of the nation’s leading auction houses, the cat will have his day, too. On September 20, 2002, Skinner, Inc. will be hosting the first ever, “All Cat” auction held in the United States. The pieces for sale will be fabulously feline, “an apt celebration of cats,” says Colleene Fesko, Skinner’s Director of American and European Paintings and Prints. The auction will take place in Skinner’s newly expanded Boston Gallery and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA).
The original collection began with 35 cat portraits from the collector Kaja Veilleux. Veilleux, a cat lover who regularly donates to animal welfare organizations, says he’s “gleaned these paintings through over 30 years of searching.” The centerpiece of this unique grouping is My Wife’s Lovers, a 19th century painting by the renowned Austrian artist, Carl Kahler. The painting was commissioned in 1891 by Kate Birdsall Johnson, a wealthy American patron of the arts who shared her home with 50 beloved Angora and Persian cats. With an estimated value between $500,000 – $700,000, the 6 feet by 8 1/2 feet painting depicts 42 different breeds of cats and is the world’s largest antique cat painting. Veilleux’s collection of mostly Victorian and Edwardian era cat paintings also includes the largest ever assemblage of paintings by Maine artist, Percy Sanborn, as well as several works by the Philadelphia artist, John Henry Dolph. Veilleux is very much looking forward to the event, stating “it should be a really interesting and exciting sale.”
Also featured in the auction is artwork Skinner commissioned from Gateway Arts, an organization of artists with disabilities, known for fine arts and crafts. Rounding out the collection is a cornucopia of cat-inspired crafts including fine furniture, sculpture, glass, decorative arts, textiles, carvings, jewelry, clothing and accessories. Says, Fesko, “I stumbled into a cat show … and was fascinated to see that ‘Best of Show’ doesn’t have to sit, jump, run or even pretend to obey! The ‘Best Cat’ simply has to be beautiful – it’s much the same with art.” There’s something in the collection to tickle everyone’s feline fancy – from classic to cool. As a prelude to the sale, Skinner will be hosting a VIP party and lecture during this year’s Tufts Animal Expo, a conference for professionals in the pet industry.
Of the auction, Catherine Riedel, Skinner’s Director of Marketing says, “We had a lot of fun putting this together. We’re all animal fans here at Skinner.” She describes the sale as an event where people who love cats can admire art created by people who love cats – in other words, “a kitty lovefest.” Fesko sums it up by saying, “the material presented in this auction will appeal to cat enthusiasts and art lovers alike, and we’re delighted to be able to support the MSPCA.” Sounds like it will be the cat’s meow!