A survey of summer 2021 at Michaans Auctions
shows sustained growth across all categories. Our longtime customers have proven their loyalty month after month, says president Allen Michaan, noting that this holds for seasoned consignors and bidders alike. At the same time, more and more new buyers and sellers are recognizing that the auction business blends discovery and sustainability, which makes it the perfect marketplace for the times we live in, as Michaan puts it.
Many new customers have come on board through the expansion of Michaans Annex, the massive monthly auction now offered online through MLIVE. Adding the MLIVE sales platform to the eclectic, no-reserve Annex auction has made it accessible to more buyers, and Annex sales have soared in 2021. We are moving so much inventory through Michaans Annex that a third day was added to this popular monthly event, says COO Scott Bradley. Another new development is the addition of a Wine and Spirits category led by Michaans Specialist, Jill Fenichell (firstname.lastname@example.org). Sales have been strong, and there will be additional events highlighting wine and spirits before years end.
In Michaans Auction Gallery, June saw two events including the Summer Fine Sale, which hammered over $710,000, including $362,375 in sales of fine art. Paul Henrys Lakeside Cottages drew international attention, selling for $230,850 (prices include buyers premium), the highest price paid for the artists work outside Europe. Henrys painting, last sold in the 1930s and tucked away in a San Francisco Bay Area attic since the 1960s, was the talk of the Dublin art community for weeks before and after the auction. It was one of a number of great rare pieces with great provenance, in the words of Fine Art Specialist, Jenny Wilson (email@example.com), that sold at Michaans this summer.
Another was the Roy Lichtenstein screenprint, Red Barn (Lot 5094, $30,000), a rare 1969 print in pristine condition. Quai de Bercy, Paris, the c. 1880 oil on canvas by Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin, brought $24,000. Literature and provenance increased the value of this beautiful painting to collectors. A rare older piece by Dale Chihuly, the Navajo Blanket vase, sold for $11,400 at Michaans this summer. Another great work by a great American artist was the untitled landscape by Thomas Hart Benton, which brought $18,000. The painting had excellent provenance and was authenticated by the Thomas Hart Benton Catalogue Raisonné Foundation, which created a lot of excitement among collectors.
A world auction record was achieved with the June sale of the etching, Cats Cradle by Charles White, who dedicated his four-decade career to creating images of dignity (artists words) of African Americans. Works by Charles White come to auction rarely, and the price realized ($15,600) was an auction record for this 1972 print.
Large cinematic photographs by the Canadian artist, Jeff Wall, are on view at SFMOMA and the Tate Modern, among other museums and galleries. Jeff Walls 2002 digital print, Logs, sold for $6,600 at Michaans on June 18. Offered in the same auction was Wall Street, New York, a 1916 photogravure by Paul Strand, which brought $7,800. A rare old print of a favorite American image, Strands Wall Street was made for Camera Work, the photographic journal published quarterly by Alfred Stieglitz from 1903 to 1917.
Also sold in July were two paintings by Henrietta Berk: Celebration ($10,200) and Informal Balance ($6,000). A great favorite of Michaans bidders, Berk (1919 -1990) studied under Richard Diebenkorn after taking up painting at the age of 40. To sell her works successfully in the male-dominated world of art, Henrietta Berk used the name Hank. Her bright colors and thick impasto technique capture the spirit of the San Francisco Bay Area and California from the 1960s onward, and her paintings continue to draw collectors from the Bay Area and beyond.
Michaans August Gallery Auction featured art from the estate of Gertrude Parker, founder of the San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum. Parker was a fiber artist and sculptor whose own works can be found in the permanent collections of the Oakland Museum of California and the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive. As a teenager, Parker fled when the Nazis invaded her native Austria and found her way to the San Francisco Bay Area. She held the belief that craft art is as legitimate an art form as fine painting. Among the works sold in August from the estate of Gertrude Parker is The Crown of La Virgen de Guadalupe by Rupert Garcia (b. 1941), a large 1990 pastel on paper diptych (Lot 165, $6,000).
Fine jewelry was exceptional in Michaans summer 2021 auctions. From unmounted gemstones and high karat gold, to heirloom timepieces, luxury designer jewels and Native American turquoise and silver, the diverse selection on offer was irresistible to bidders, leaving nearly nothing unsold.
Diamonds in particular were hotly pursued, sometimes exceeding even the expectations of Elise Coronado, Michaans seasoned Jewelry Specialist and GIA Gemologist. A highlight of the Summer Fine Sale was the impeccable diamond and platinum wedding set that fetched $26,400. Coronado notes that the emerald-cut diamond at the center of this set was over four carats, with an exceptional clarity grade. Emerald-cut has risen in popularity to the second most desirable diamond cut in the market, she adds, behind only the modern round brilliant-cut. Another emerald-cut stunner was sold in the July Gallery Auction, when Lot 326, the diamond and platinum ring comprising five emerald-cut stones, soared to $33,000. Auction watchers will find that big, beautiful diamond rings were unstoppable at Michaans in summer 2021, as were diamond bracelets, period diamond brooches, and necklaces such as Lot 5051 in the June 18 sale: the La Triomphe diamond and 18k gold Riviera necklace ($7,200).
Michaans Summer Fine Sale also saw fierce bidding for Lot 5028, the pair of Chinese 24k yellow gold bracelets, which sold for $14,400 on June 18. These bracelets were exceptional in design and material, notes Coronado, with a braided motif and charms which were very popular amongst bidders, selling for more than the high estimate. Another highlight was the French sapphire, diamond, cultured pearl and 18k gold necklace (Lot 5058, $8,400), an estate piece of bold proportions and exquisite taste, sold to benefit homeless students attending San Francisco public schools.
One of the summers most exciting auction sales was the $18,000 price realized for the imperial topaz, emerald, and 18k gold ring, Lot 382 in Michaans July Gallery Auction. A beautiful example of jewelry design by Louis Comfort Tiffany for Tiffany & Co., the ring is quite rare, says Coronado. Numerous Tiffany collectors from all over the country were bidding, which drove the price to triple its original estimate. Also by Tiffany & Co., the 18k yellow gold repeater pocket watch, offered in August, sold for an eye-popping $14,400. Coronado notes that repeater pocket watches are always collectible; beautiful chimes announce the time while the watch remains in your pocket. This one in particular (Lot 375, sold on August 14) was highly sought by collectors, says Coronado, due to the Tiffany name.
The diversity of Michaans jewelry selection is fully apparent in this summers standout sales. A necklace (incomplete) of pre-Columbian Tairona hardstone beads and gold (Lot 277) sold for $2,700 on July 17. In August, the collection of thirteen unmounted emeralds brought $8,400 and the mesmerizing boulder opal, 18k yellow gold ring sold for $3,000. The gold coin, diamond, 18k gold necklace, an eternally chic design, realized $4,200.
Sales of furniture and decorative arts were strong this summer at Michaans, with Modernist design leading the categories. Paul McCobb was featured in the Summer Fine Sale, with several lots of McCobbs Planner Group selling very well. The Planner Group was designed by McCobb to bring international modern style to American homes at affordable price points, notes Michaans Specialist, Jill Fenichell. Very successful when introduced, it remains highly valued in todays hot market for mid-century design. McCobbs Planner Group double-wide maple dresser (Lot 5147) brought $5,400 at Michaans in June. Also in June, an Eames Storage Unit, the great classic by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller, brought $9,600.
A Modernist sterling tea service by Alphonse La Paglia for International Silver sold for $5,100 in the Summer Fine Sale. Creator of exquisite silver hollowware and jewelry, La Paglia (1907-1953) studied silversmithing with Georg Jensen; his work is highly sought by collectors, and intact tea services such as this are seldom found. Silver was consistently high all summer long, with high prices realized for services by American silversmiths Reed & Barton, Towle, and Gorham as well as for English silver by Crichton Brothers and Edward Barnard & Sons.
The Art Nouveau lead glass lamp shade with base, Lot 72 in Michaans August Gallery Auction, was attributed to the Gorham Mfg. Co., which ignited interest among collectors of Arts & Crafts lighting and drove the sale price to $7,200. Another Arts & Crafts gem, the Batchelder oak and tile seventy-drawer cabinet, brought $3,900 in June.
The Andrea Brustolon style carved throne chair was an exciting highlight of the June Gallery Auction. Estimated at $300-$500, it sold for $3,300. Says Jill Fenichell: The Brustolon chair is a fantastic Mannerist design, and this version conveys the great strength of the carved figural elements. An unusual chair to begin with, this one made an even bigger splash with bidders owing to its wonderful condition. Fine handmade carpets, a strong category at Michaans in every season, sold very well over the summer. Luxury brands continue to hold sway at auction, and the small Louis Vuitton monogram trunk realized $2,400 in August.
The Chinese art market is blooming again, and on the rise, says Michaans Asian Art Specialist, Annie Zeng. In spite of the pandemic and its restrictions, increased interest and purchasing power from mainland China led to significant auction results. Zeng can point to many excellent summer 2021 sales to prove it. The Summer Fine Sale in June did $128,350 in Asian Art business, with 31 of 37 lots sold. A highlight was the pair of iron-red, grisaille-decorated Yongzheng Period bowls (Lot 5165, $19,200). This rare porcelain work, of superb and subtle design, sold at Michaans for more than double its previous sale price at Christies, notes Zeng, adding that collectors are now seeing good returns on their investments. Lot 5162 in the same auction, the stately blue and white yuhuchun vase on gilt bronze base, with Qianlong mark, brought $30,000. Zeng says it is every porcelain collectors dream to own a piece like this, of imperial quality and featuring the classic scholars motif, three friends of winter.
Fine rare jade is also strong at auction, for example Lot 5158, the Chinese celadon jade beaker gu vase ($6,600). A fine antique piece with archaic motifs, it came from an old estate collection. Another winner, from the personal collection of a prominent physician/collector, sold for $8,400: a very special lot comprising porcelain, glass and hardstone pieces in a wall curio case, with ancient neolithic carved jades, porcelain wine cups, and other rare items from a wide range of periods.
Michaans July and August auctions saw continued successes in the Asian Art category. One lot that greatly exceeded original estimates was the Sino-Tibetan gilt bronze statue of Tara on a lotus throne, Lot 508 in the July Gallery Auction, $4,800. Good Buddhist statues are widely admired and in high market demand, notes Annie Zeng. As with so many of Michaans auction highlights, the statue of Tara came from a fine San Francisco Bay Area estate. August brought another stellar old estate piece, the very large and rare Chinese famille rose porcelain Eight Immortals Celestial Sphere vase, Lot 415. Its rare size and fine craftsmanship generated keen interest among collectors, who have made Chinese porcelains -- and the Asian Art Department overall -- a consistent and rising success story at Michaans.