ELKHART — A piece of art work owned by an Elkhart museum went up for sale.
The sculpture sat in the Ruthmere Museum for 40 years before going up for auction last month at Sotheby’s in New York. Officials were in shock when the sculpture sold for over $7 million!
The limestone sculpture was made by the French artist Auguste Rodin in 1894 titled “The Fallen Caryatid Carrying Her Stone.”
“We’ve been the caretaker for it for 40 years and it’s been a wonderful item to share with the public, but it was time to serve a new purpose for our organization,” said Bill Firstenberger, Ruthmere Museum. “We just felt the time was right to part with the piece.”
The sculpture was originally purchased by a donor years ago for $50,000.
It had a current insurance replacement value of $5 million, but the Rodin sold at auction for $7.5 million.
“It was a jaw-dropping moment,” said Firstenberger. “It was something that, you know, you have hopes when you are in that situation, the fact that it shot past all pre-auction estimates exceeded every expectation.”
He says the sale of the artwork is a one-of-a-kind thing; it’s never been done before and most likely will never be done again, but they are very happy with the outcome.
The proceeds will be used to achieve financial sustainability for the museum and help with a $10 million endowment to support it for years to come.
“We live, had been living, very much, sort of a hand-to-mouth existence every year on the support of our donor base and this obviously changes the equation with that,” said Firstenberger. “We felt the time was right for all parties concerned.”
He says the museum is not looking to spend very much of the principle money from the sale. Instead, it will operate off the interest generated from investing the money.