Clars Auction Gallery credits Internet bidding for record year
Clars Auction Gallery recently reached an all-time high for fiscal year 2013-14 with $21 million in sales. The Oakland-based auction house reported a robust increase of 57 percent over the previous fiscal year, the largest year-over-year increase in the firm’s history.
Clars has utilized LiveAuctioneers’ Internet bidding platform for more than a decade, and Martin attributes much of his company’s success to the far reach afforded by Internet bidding.
“We had a Roy Lichtenstein drawing that sold for $47,000 to a bidder from Russia. I never would have guessed someone in Russia would be the buyer. I though that was cool,” said Martin, who has seen the impact of Internet bidding increase dramatically over the years.
“In the beginning it was 15 to 20 percent of the lots going to Internet bidders. Now it’s over 40 percent and it soon will be over 50 percent,” said Martin.
He says much of the Internet bidding at Clars is directed at fine art and Asian art and antiques.
In Clar’s February auction a large acrylic dot painting, titled Possum Dreaming, by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri (Aborigine, 1932-2002) sold to an Internet bidder through LiveAuctioneers for $130,900. It marked a new record U.S. price for the artist, according to Clars. Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
The top painting sold by Clars during the past fiscal year, a lovely oil on canvas by Eugène de Blaas (Austrian/Italian, 1843-1932), brought $154,700. Titled The Proposal, it depicted a young woman and a young man in a courtyard.
Fine art accounted for 27 percent of sales during the past fiscal year at Clars. The $5.6 million in the category represented a 15 percent increase over fiscal year 2012/13.
The biggest increase—and astounding 136 percent—came in the Asian art and antiques category, with total sales of $6.9 million. Much of the increase can be attributed to a collection of highly desirable Chinese huanghuali furniture sourced from a Reno, Nev., estate, said Martin. The Chinese term huanghuali literally means “yellow flowering pear” wood. It is a member of the rosewood family.
In Clars’ auction in March a matching pair of Chinese huanghuali cabinets sold for $309,400 and a Chinese huanghuali table with five stools fetched $190,400.
Bidders utilizing LiveAuctioneers snapped up two of Clars’ Chinese huanghuali armchairs for $54,900, and a Chinese square porcelain brush pot, Republic period and having a Hongxian mark, for $36,600.
Clars has experienced success in other segments as well, from a brownish pink diamond and platinum ring selling for $142,800 to a Tiffany Studios Venetian desk lamp for $56,500. Clars even sold a 1954 Chevrolet Corvette in original condition for an impressive $65,500 in May.
Martin says the average price of lots purchased by Internet bidders has increased steadily over the years as well.
“When we started there were a lot of $10 to $50 lots sold to Internet bidders. Today the average price per lot sold to Internet bidders is $1,084,” said Martin.
Once viewed with skepticism by many auction-goers, Internet bidding is now commonplace in the industry.
“We now have regulars who may be too busy to attend … or for whatever reason would rather bid on the Internet,” said Martin.
As Clars’ sales results have improved, so has the quality of the merchandise the auction house is able to acquire.
“The key to our record-breaking year has been successfully attracting a substantial level of buyers from around the world. This in turn, has directly resulted in winning top estates, important collections and individual consignments,” noted Martin.
He also credits Clars’ achievements to the staff of experts who “are dedicated to providing the most successful sales experience for each of our consignors.”
Clars will launch their 2014-2015 fiscal year on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Oct. 11-13, with a Fine Art, Decoratives, Asian and Jewelry Auction.
View the fully illustrated catalog and register to bid absentee or live via the Internet as the sale is taking place by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.
ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE