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Elaine's Table No. 1 to be Sold at Auction

By Mary Johnson | August 9, 2011 5:32pm
Elaine's well-known proprietor died in December. The restaurant bearing her name closed in May.
Elaine's well-known proprietor died in December. The restaurant bearing her name closed in May.
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MANHATTAN — When Elaine’s closed in May, longtime patrons mourned the loss of the Upper East Side restaurant known as much for its larger-than-life owner, Elaine Kaufman, as it was for its famous clientele.

Now, the landmark's fans have a chance to own a relic from the storied venue — if the price is right.

Auction house Doyle New York will sell off posters and artwork from the restaurant’s walls, as well as Table No. 1 and its four chairs, on Sept. 20.

“I feel that this is the best — and, frankly, the only — way I know to share Elaine with those she cared about most,” Diane Becker, the restaurant’s longtime manager, said in a statement.

Becker inherited Kaufman’s entire estate when the restaurateur died in December at the age of 81.

The auction house estimates that Table No. 1 will fetch $400 to $600, which may seem a bit low, considering its provenance.

But the price doesn’t take into account Kaufman's legendary status, said Kathleen Doyle, CEO and chairman of the auction house.

“In a celebrity sale — and let’s face it, Elaine was a New York celebrity and the restaurant was iconic as a celebrity in its own right — we have to look at what would be a realistic value if something didn’t belong to a celebrity,” Doyle told the New York Times.

In addition to the table, the auction will also feature a papier-mâché carousel horse that once hung in the restaurant’s window, copper pots and the vintage cash register that sat behind the bar. Artwork and photographs will also go up on the auction block, as well as bits of memorabilia from Kaufman’s apartment.  

The treasure trove includes books signed by the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Truman Capote, two art pieces by Andy Warhol, a lithograph by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and baseballs signed by George Steinbrenner and other legends. Those mementos are expected to bring in $300 to $15,000, estimated Doyle New York.

By far the most expensive item in the auction is a photographic collage by artist Wallace Berman, which could bring in as much as $50,000.

The auction will be held at 2 p.m. at Doyle Auction House, 175 E. 87th Street.