1700 Times Estimate at Brunk Auctions – artmarketblog.com
Smaller auction houses rarely get the sort of attention given to the big four auction houses which is a shame because the smaller auction houses produce their fair share of exciting results and top sales. Brunk Auctions, a North Carolina based auction house that sells fine and decorative arts as well as collectibles, ephemera and jewellery, recently had the sale of their lives when two seemingly ordinary pieces of Chinese ceramics sold at their May 9-10, 2009 Auction for what can only be described as astonishingly high prices. The first piece, a Chinese famille rose vase described as a 20th century copy of a Qianlong period (1736-1795) piece, had been purchased from a yard sales by it’s owner and was given an estimate of $400 – $800. At the fall of the hammer this apparently cheap knock off had sold for an incredible $1,075,000 or more than 1790 times mid estimate. Obviously several people knew something about this piece that the owner and Brunk Auctions didn’t. The next item was a Chinese decorated jar described as an 18th or 19th century copy of a Jialing period (1522-1566) piece and was given an estimate of $600 – $1,200. Once again the price headed north at a rapid rate finally settling at a dizzying $60,000 once again suggesting that several people knew something about this piece that the owner and Brunk Auctions didn’t.
Plenty of other items soared past their estimate at the same auction such as the Jean Dubuffet “Tapis” wool-pile carpet weave tapestry which sold for $11,000 against an estimate of $2000-$3000 and a Tamara de Lempicka print titled “Femme a la Mandoline” which made $10,500 against an estimate of $4,000 – $8,000. The high price for the de Lempicka print is likely to have been influenced by the new auction for the artist’s work set at Christie’s on the 6th of May as well as the number of other excellent results for the artist’s work sold at auction recently. Although selling for a price within the estimate a spectacular major work by the American Realist John Koch called “The Plasterers” sold for $210,000 against a $175,000 – $250,000 estimate which was still a good result. A revival in the interest of classical style sculpture is sure to have been a factor in the results for a marble bust of Prince Borghesi whcih trippled its high estimate selling for $12,000.
The following Brunk auction held on the 30th of May which included the collection of Florence and Bill Griffin produced some more outstanding results proving that smaller auction houses are capable of playing with the big boys. Art wise, two portraits by American folk artist Edwin B. Smith were highlights of the auction selling for well above their high estimate. The first, a portrait of Robert Ransome Billups sold for $80,000 against an estimate of $30,000 – $50,000 and the second, a portrait of Elizabeth Ware Fullwood sold for $36,000 against an estimate of $12,000 – $18,000. Edwin B. Smith is not a particularly well known or highly regarded artist on the world stage but is a very important artist to the area of Georgia, USA which was the theme of the auction and the home town of Florence and Bill Griffin. Furniture from the Georgia region also sold extremely well with the highlight being a fine Georgia paint-decorated cellaret or liquor stand which sold for $105,000 against an estimate of $30,000 – $50,000.
The internet has given smaller auction houses the ability to operate on a national or international level as is the case with Brunk Auctions who use liveauctioneers.com to accept online bids and promote their sales. I am often surprised by the quality and rarity of the items that are sold by the smaller auction houses and would encourage everyone to take a greater interest in the smaller national and regional auction houses that operate in their area. The advantage the smaller national and regional auction houses have over the big four is that they are more likely to come across those surprise objects that the owner does not know the value of or realise the significance of. People who own very valuable works of art and know the value of those works of art are more likely to go to one of the big auction houses whereas someone who has no idea what an item they own is worth is more likely to take that item to a local auction house. The moral of the story is that smaller auction houses are well worth keeping an eye on.
For more information see http://www.brunkauctions.com
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.