BOONTON, N.J. – Asian arts routinely bring top dollar, surpassing their estimates, so their robust performance at Millea Bros. auction Dec. 7-9 is notable but perhaps not the main story of this sale. Instead one can look at the wealth of items – 27 in all – that brought five-figure prices to measure the sale’s success. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
Unlike the spring auction here where a Chinese scroll painting fetched a half million dollars, there was no lot that broke the six-figure mark, but co-owner Michael Millea doesn’t mind in the least. “Overall the sale performed very well,” said Millea, noting it brought $2.1 million, including the buyer’s premium, just over the estimate of $1.1/$1.4 million. “It was a super successful sale. I’d rather have a successful sale with nothing breaking the six-figure mark and having many lots do well than have one big kahuna and everything else be mediocre. We always like an even performance.”
While sales may have had even results, bidding was anything but and several lots had bidding volleys where a bidder would bid early, drop out, and then come back in late in the game. “Bidding was crazy. I saw a lot of strategic bidding, which is kind of fun where you have someone bid, bid, bid, drop out, and then come back. The bidding really bounced around,” he added.
The “Select” sale of more than 1,000 lots had a little bit of everything from Asian, European and English art and antiques to silver and objects of vertu, modern and fine art as well as Americana.
The top lot overall came within the first few hours of the first session as part of a single-owner collection of Ming/Kangxi-era Chinese porcelains. Bringing exactly $100,000 with the buyer’s premium was a Qing dynasty porcelain reticulated stand (above), pierced Eternity Knot gallery, having an underglaze blue Qianlong seal mark to a pale blue glazed underside.
“Chinese imperial porcelain was the big money piece of the day. It was spectacular. People offered different opinions as to what it was,” Millea said, noting that people suggested it was a dish for a dining table or the bottom part of a censer or even a dish for collecting peach pits or bones.
“In the house it came from, it was in a kitchen pantry on top of cabinets where the previous owner had stored a bunch of vases decoratively. This piece was upside down as a base for another vase that was probably worth $100 and sat up there for who knows how long,” he said.
Other Asian arts performing well over 20 times their estimates included an antique Chinese carved red lacquer chest, Qing dynasty, for $38,750 from the estate of Louis Beal, who founded the renowned New York City interior architecture firm Interior Space Design (ISD); a pale celadon jade moon flask carved with low relief scenes of blossoming trees that earned $32,500 and a carved, very pale celadon jade scholar’s mountain that hit $31,250.
Among highlights in the second session was a Tiffany “Spider” table lamp that nearly tripled its high estimate to bring $35,000, property from the late Charles E. Sigety, a renowned Americana collector.
Fine art also accounted for some of the day’s top prices, such as an Eva Hild sculpture, Breaking Up (One and a Half), 2003, that realized $26,250. “That was a beautiful thing but incredibly fragile,” Millea said, adding that they dared not put it out for preview, fearing a bump would be the end of the piece so when people wanted to see it, they viewed it in a back room.
The sculpture came from the estate of the late Dr. Pentti Kouri, who accumulated a significant art collection with leanings toward Minimalism, Arte Povera, Conceptual and text-based art. Beginning with this auction, Millea Bros. is offering 400 works from his collection over several sales in the next year.
The second highest lot of the overall auction sold on the third day in the form of a gold-mounted violin bow, attributed to Dominique Peccatte, circa 1845, that played well over its $1,000-$1,500 estimate to bring $90,625 from an American collector.
Rounding out the final session were a Vassili Grachev bronze sculpture, Cattle Thief, 11 1/2 inches tall, that made $37,500, 10 times over its high estimate, and a pair of Mariano Fortuny gowns that brought robust prices. An ivory silk Peplos gown went out at $12,500 and an ice blue silk Delphos gown sold for $11,875, both well over their estimates of $1,500-$2,500.
All prices reported include the 25 percent buyer’s premium.
For more information, www.milleabros.com or 973-377-1500.