Joe C Lee’s Buckeye Family expected to make $1.2m

Joe C Lee's The Buckeye Family (circa 1925) is valued at $800,000-1.2m ahead of a sale at Sotheby's New York.

It will highlight the auction of the Stephen and Petra Levin collection of American folk art on January 23.

The carving stands 56 inches tall and displays four figures. It's considered an iconic piece of Americana, deriving its name from the buckeye wood Lee used in its production.

Buckeye family sothebys
Tennessee greengrocer Joe C Lee carved the Buckeye Family during the 1920s

Lee was a greengrocer from Overton, Tennessee and worked away at the piece for three years during the 1920s.

It became world famous, with visitors travelling from across the globe to Lee's grocery store to see it.

In 1962, after Lee's death, a pair of businessmen named Charles and Thurman Tinch paid $200 to his family for the sculpture.

Over the years it has been displayed in museums and galleries across America - including the Brooklyn Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The sale will feature a wealth of artworks, with an emphasis on carvings, from across American history.

Sotheby's Nancy Druckman said: "Stephen and Petra's energy and love of Americana is evident throughout the group, which celebrates the vitality, creativity and artistry of the United States.

"The level of quality, the strong sensitivity and sensibility to what makes great art great, and the way in which the art captures the circumstances of its time are apparent throughout their collections.

"This collection of Americana attests to the visual acuity of the collectors themselves, which also extends to their extensive collection of Contemporary Art.

"Indeed, much of the sculpture in the collection can be viewed as a precursor to American Contemporary Art."

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