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kansas city modern auction

The Circle Team introduces Kansas City to dedicated Modern & Contemporary auctions. 

By Circle Auction | Aug 2023


Something new is happening in the Kansas City auction scene: dedicated Modern + Contemporary focused auctions.

Wide Range of Bidder Participation:

“It’s a very different thing,” says James Fry, creative director at Circle Auction. “Having a few mid-century pieces scattered around an auction mostly focused on antiques, versus having an entire auction dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design. It’s been our goal for a while to bring this type of auction to Kansas City as a regular event.”

KC collectors are responding. Circle Auction’s recent July event achieved a total of $227,770 including buyer’s premium – landing 24% above the high estimate, with 96% of the lots being sold. “These focused Modern and Contemporary auctions alway see the highest engagement from our bidders,” says Fry. “From registrations to the open house preview, phone bidding to online bidding – across the board the participation is a lot stronger.”


Open House Modern Auction Preview Party: 

July auction results were boosted by a new approach to the open house preview. Most previews are a chill event with a few people trickling in and out throughout the day. Circle hosted its first Open House Preview Party the night before the auction from 5pm-8pm. The event showcased the newly renovated auction gallery, free tacos from Taco Cacao, and an open bar. Attendance for the three hours exceed 150 collectors, and many either placed bids that evening or joined in the final bidding the next day. 

In addition to the Kansas City local bidders, participation in the auction was as diverse and colorful as the art itself, spanning 22 countries and 41 states. This wide, geographically diverse bidding pool helped bolster the auction well above it’s high estimate.


Nick Vaccaro Collection:

Of particular note in the auction was the introduction of large-scale oil paintings by the late Nick Vaccaro to the secondary market. An endeavor born out of Circle Auction’s ongoing collaboration with the Vaccaro estate, this initiative revealed 26 pieces of Vaccaro’s artistry to the world. The combined sales amounted to $60,249, including buyer’s premium, signaling a strong appreciation for Vaccaro’s work among art enthusiasts.

robert sudlow painting

Top Selling lots in KC Modern Auction:

The top selling painting in the auction was catapulted to its high selling price in part by its mysterious provenance. Kyohei Inukai’s Untitled oil had a handwritten label on the reverse that read “Property of Andy Warhol”. The stretcher also included a tag that read “Art Gallery New York / 530 West 25th St. / New York, NY 10001 A/W.” That gallery was known to have worked directly with the estates of artists including Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. While there is a gap in the provenance between the gallery and the current owner, multiple bidders both online and on the phone were intrigued enough to push the bidding past its $2,000 – $3,000 estimate to land at $15,500 – including buyer’s premium. Other top selling art works include:

  • Nick Vaccaro’s “Secluded Dynasty” (1965 Oil), a stunning representation of his mastery over the medium, secured the second spot, commanding $6,842.50.
  • Another work by Vaccaro, the “Summer Dynasty” (1960 Oil), proved equally irresistible, bringing in $5,712.
  • Alexander Calder’s “COMPOSITION: BLUE BOOMERANG” (1962, SIGNED) sold for for $5,474.
  • And finally, Alfred Maurer’s “Still Life” (1920s Oil)  – sold for $4,998.

Mid-century design saw active bidding throughout the auction. Top selling lots included:

  • A pair of brass and stainless steel chairs and a matching chess set, both in the manner of Paul Evans sold for $7,854
  • Brown leather Eames for Herman Miller lounge chair brought in $4,284
  • A set of 8 Frank Mariani for Pace Collection “Lugano” chairs sold for $3,332
  • Bench made Wormley style magazine tree sold for $2,856.

The auction’s success is a nod to both Kansas City collectors’ strong appreciation of modern and contemporary works, plus Circle Auction’s ability to draw in bidders across the country and globe. The successful introduction of Nick Vaccaro’s works to the secondary market adds another feather to Circle Auction’s cap – encouraging plans to bring another group of his paintings to auction in early 2024. 

If you have items you’re interested in consigning in our next Modern + Contemporary auction, you can connect with us here.


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