ROCKPORT — A one-day showing of 120 works of the Cape Ann School brought more than 500 people to the Rockport Art Association recently.
The showing, hosted in conjunction with the Maine-based James D. Julia Inc. auction house, exceeded all expectations, attracting 500 viewers, both local and many who traveled here, according to the auction house and art association leaders.
The standing-room-only event featured the John F. Gale Collection, a group of works painted by Cape Ann artists, and a talk by “Antiques Roadshow” regular and fine art and antiques appraiser Colleene Fesko.
The event was also a day of firsts. It was the first time that Julia’s held a full off-site auction preview. It was also the first time that the Rockport Art Association walls were used for an independent auction preview.
Some guests traveled up to three hours by car to attend, even one guest from southern Connecticut.
The collection of the late John Gale represents the largest offering of Cape Ann School painters that has come to auction in about a decade. Included are 35 works by William Lester Stevens, 26 by Aldro T. Hibbard, five by Frederick Mulhaupt, three by T.M. Nicholas, and one by Emile Gruppé, among others.
Guests lined up at the association galleries an hour before the 2 p.m. event even began.
“The gates opened at 1:45 p.m. in order to capture the enthusiasm of the building crowd. With 500 attendees, the original attendance goal, set at around 250, was met, and met again,” said Bill Gage, who heads Julia’s Antiques & Fine Art Division. “The stars really aligned to make the Gale exhibit a once-in-a-lifetime event for art enthusiasts here in New England. This event, in many ways, was like being at one of our Fairfield auctions — just without the bidding. It had the energy, interest, excitement, and intensity of a live event.”
Martin Willis, Julia’s director of Decorative Arts for the Boston area, was stunned at the response.
“I’ve been doing previews for over three decades, and this was my all-time favorite of all,” said Willis.
Rockport Art Association staff also were surprised at the outpouring of interest.
“In the five years of working for the Rockport Art Association, I have never seen anything like the positive response to the Gale event — before, during, and after,” said Linda Cote, assistant director. “It created enormous buzz across Rockport. Even several days after the show, we still received calls thanking us for our help in bringing this marvelous collection “home” for a public viewing.”
The Gale Collection paintings will become part of the Julia’s annual winter auction, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1. The auctioneers partnered with Proxibid for the event. For information about the auction or assistance, visit www.proxibid.com, or call 1-877-505-7770.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3445, or firstname.lastname@example.org.