February 24, 2024

Best in show doesn’t sell at auction of cat artworks in Boston

THOMASTON – The star painting at an auction of cat art a week ago will likely be lent to a museum for public viewing because no one met the minimum price to buy the work, the painting’s owner said.

“My Wife’s Lovers,” a painting depicting 42 Persian and Angora cats, was expected to fetch between $450,000 and $750,000 at a Sept. 20 auction in Boston, but none of the bidders met its reserve price.

The painting, commissioned in 1891, measures 6 feet by 8 1/2 feet and survived San Francisco’s fire and earthquake of 1906.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind rare thing, and the buyer has to be someone with a huge space, and possibly a million dollars,” said Kaja Veilleux, an auctioneer and owner of Thomaston Place Galleries.

Some 150 lots from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries were auctioned by Skinner Inc. Veilleux’s collection of 50 cat paintings was featured at the auction.

“My Wife’s Lovers,” by Austrian immigrant Carl Kahler, was one of two of Veilleux’s cat paintings that did not sell. The other was by Henriette Ronner-Knip, a Dutch artist who died in 1909, valued at $20,000 to $30,000.

“Those were my two favorites. I said if they don’t bring a reasonable price, then I don’t want to sell them,” Veilleux said.

Veilleux said he would look for a museum to display “My Wife’s Lovers,” which was created for the late Kate Birdsall Johnson, a wealthy philanthropist and art collector from San Francisco.

He’ll also continue selling fine art prints of the painting. Part of the proceeds from the prints goes to animal shelters.

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