OAKLAND, Calif. – The energy in the saleroom at Clars Auction Gallery was electrifying as bidders waited anxiously for numerous historic lots to be presented for sale on Sunday, Feb. 17. Phone bidders were poised from around the world as well for what would become an international bidding event, at which a 34-carat diamond ring topped $500,000, a historic Japanese vase from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair soared to $135,000 and a new fine art record was set for Tadeusz Brzozowski. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
The 34.28-carat fancy light yellow old mine cut diamond and platinum ring (above) that boasted both rarity and rich history came to the sale from the historic Spenger Collection of the San Francisco Bay Area. Bidding on this extraordinary diamond opened at $200,000 and the sale price quickly escalated to $530,000 selling to a bidder in the saleroom.
This diamond ring’s provenance purportedly dates back to King Kalakaua of Hawaii. who reportedly purchased this ring in 1887. In 1950 it was acquired by Frank Spenger, owner of the famous Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto in Berkeley, Calif.
Also from the Spenger collection was a rare Japanese vase from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The recently discovered monumental 8-foot cloisonné vase (below) created by Japan for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, gained international attention prior to this sale. Believed missing for over 100 years, it had been actually hiding in plain sight in the main dining room of Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto in Berkeley.
Numerous museums, private institutions and collectors were poised to bid on this historic vase which was estimated to sell for $30,000-$50,000. The bidding opened at $15,000 but that number was quickly surpassed as the battle from the floor and phones began driving the final sale price to $135,000 ultimately selling to a private buyer in New York.
In the fine art category, a new record was set for Artist Tadeusz Brzozowski (Polish, 1918-1987). The highest auction price ever achieved on a work by Tadeusz Brzozowski outside of Poland, was set at Clars on his oil on canvas titled Stancja, 1961. This work was originally exhibited at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. Known for his surrealistic paintings, he is regarded as one of the most colorful artists of the Krakow Arts Community.
This painting was offered with an estimate of $20,000–$30,000 and 12 phone bidders were on the line to vie for this work. Once the bidding opened, the estimate was in the dust as the sale price escalated to the new record price of $159,000.
There were more impressive fine art prices realized at this sale. A black chalk on paper by Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862-1918) titled Im Lehnstuhl sitzernd von vorne, beide Unteratme aufgestutzt (Adele Bloch-Bauer), 1903, surpassed estimate selling for $28,000.
A real surprise was had on a 20th-century American School unsigned oil on canvas, which came from a local private institution, titled Portrait of a Gentleman Sitting for a Portrait. This work was estimated at $500–$700 but highly competitive bidding from the Internet and floor drove the sale price to an amazing $22,000 (below).
Rounding out the top highlights was a color etching and aquatint on arches paper by Joan Miro (Spanish, 1893-1983). Titled Le Femme Arborescente, 1974, this work performed well selling for $16,000.
The second installment of the historic Spenger Maritime Collection was offered on Feb. 17. Just 60 lots from this extensive collection were offered in this sale and former patrons of the famed Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto and maritime collectors alike competed heavily, driving this offering’s total to over $100,000 with most lots surpassing high estimates.
The top seller in this installment was an authentic No. 3 Divinhood Miller-Dunn Co. navy standard shallow water diving helmet which sold for over the estimate for $8,000. Selling for over 10 times its estimate was the carved ship’s name board from the SS Guam Bear which achieved $5,000.
The third installment of the Spenger Maritime Collection will be offered at Clars on March 16 and 17.
Mid-century modern offerings were very strong at this sale. A 1950s Danish Modern Finn Juhl (1912-1989) for Niels Vodder Chieftain chair blew past all expectations selling for astonishing $49,000 surpassing its $5,000–$7,000 estimate.
Designs by Walter Lamb for Brown-Jordan also impressively surpassed their estimates. The first, a settee expected to realize $6,000 sold for $12,300. A circa 1950 patio suite and a pair of chaise lounges both achieved $8,000.
Arts and Crafts offering also performed beyond expectations with the highlight in this genre being a lot of 10 custom designed Greene and Greene-style chairs which were offered for $4,000–$6,000 but sold for $22,000 (below) and a similar table brought almost $10,000.
In addition to the star of this auction, the dazzling 34-carat diamond ring, several other notable prices were achieved in the fine jewelry category. A Columbian emerald, diamond and platinum ring surpassed high estimate selling for $20,000 and an Art Deco diamond and platinum bracelet doubled high estimate earning $12,000.
For details contact Clars Auction Gallery at 510-428-0100.