The first Fine Asian Works of Art auction of the year was held on June 23 to phenomenal sales results. Totaling over $4.5 million, it commanded the highest single auction figure ever achieved at Michaan’s. The total was due in large part to another phenomenon in its own right, listed as lot 3080 in the sale. A rare and important soapstone figural carving, centering Imperial porcelain kiln supervisor Tang Ying, was by far the star of the auction. Expectations ran high for the work of art, as it was the highest estimated lot of the sale at $100,000-$150,000. Competition ran wild for the rendition of Tang Ying, with online bidding activity pouring in from around the world. The piece sold for $2,235,000, becoming the highest selling Asian soapstone carving ever auctioned outside of Asia as well as Michaan’s highest single selling lot to date.
The list of successes marched on in the June Asian auction, with yet another record set by Li Yin’s Mountainous Dwellings (lot 3217, $25,000-$35,000). The hanging scroll realized a world record-breaking price of $112,100, becoming the highest figure ever achieved at auction for a Li Yin work.
Finely carved jades also dazzled bidders, with a steady stream of monumental prices. Two jade double gourd-form pendants performed amazingly well, as they sold for over 53 times the high estimate for $106,200 (lot 3027, $1,500-$2,000). The pair of pendants topped a lengthy list of 15 additional carved jade lots to sell from over five to 33 times projected high values.
The follow-up sale of famed Tiffany masterworks from Japan’s Garden Museum Collection was Michaan’s second highest grossing auction of the year at over $3.7 million. More than half of the May 18 auction lots exceeded high estimates, with many important works contributing to the handsome figure. A dozen Tiffany Studios lots sold within the hundreds of thousands, with top sellers seen in a Poinsettia chandelier (lot 2054, $220,000-$250,000 sold for $306,800), a Wisteria table lamp commissioned for Mrs. Curtis Freschel (lot 2013, $175,000-$250,000, sold for $283,200), a Laburnum lamp shade (lot 2036, $160,000-$200,000, sold for $236,000) and a Poppy table lamp (lot 2021, $170,000-$200,000, sold for $212,400).
Allen Michaan, president and co-owner of Michaan’s Auctions, expressed gratitude in bringing the Garden Museum Collection to the world marketplace yet again. “It has been a great privilege to present these masterworks at Michaan’s Auctions. My admiration for the disciplines of Tiffany Studios is both a personal and professional passion, making this auction a very special honor. We also produced another significant reference work in the form of our auction catalog; a viable reference tool for years to come,” he said.
Asian works of art continued to rise as another fine sale closed Michaan’s 2013 auction schedule with a bang. The Dec. 15 sale grossed $1.95 million with an approximate 78 percent sell-through. The star lot, a Qi Baishi painting titled Rabbits Under Osmanthus Tree (Tian Xiang), soared to $383,500 (lot 5243, $50,000-70,000).
“Qi Baishi remains one of the most highly regarded names in the Asian antiquities marketplace; a definitive artist preferred by many collectors,” said Michaan’s Asian art specialist Harry Huang. “The quality of the painting as well as a distinguished provenance from Mr. and Mrs. Lt. Gen. Yu Pingtung made it an absolutely stellar piece at auction.”
A Ruth Asawa tied wire sculpture sold in the December fine art, furniture, decorative arts and jewelry auction accounted for Michaan’s third record of the year. The sculpture became the highest selling Asawa wire wreath form sold at U.S. auction, realizing a price of $102,660 (lot 1059, $80,000-$90,000). Greg Favors, Michaan’s 20th century design specialist, was instrumental in bringing the piece to sale from its debut at a Michaan’s Auctions appraisal event. “It has been a wonderful experience for me to be a part of securing such a quality piece for auction, from its original appraisal to the final sale at Michaan’s. Ruth Asawa has not only become a San Francisco legend, but a 20th century design icon in her own right,” said Favors.
Jewelry remained a strong and consistent earner for yet another year at Michaan’s. The department’s sales figures generally fell among the top three performers at auction throughout the year, highlighted by a banner sale in Michaan’s fine auction held on June 7. A substantial emerald, diamond, platinum and gold necklace brought the highest bid of the day after a lengthy bidding rally. The necklace of an approximate 14.75-carat emerald was estimated at $60,000-$80,000 and came to command $141,600 (lot 2594).
The year was also one of steady growth for Michaan’s auction lineup as new sale categories were introduced. The fine and collectible knives auction premiered on Sept. the 6, showcasing 19th to 20th century English exhibition knives, American knives, dress pieces, World War II to Vietnam-era knives, KA-BAR knives and a plethora of antique folding knives.
Michaan’s first dedicated Asian decorative arts auction Oct. 7 achieved 89 percent sell-through of its 307 offered lots. February ushered in the partnership of specialist Lee Jester and Michaan’s to form the first Arts and Crafts Department for the auction house. The Arts and Crafts auction on Oct. 11 followed, presenting pieces of uncompromised quality. An Arthur Mathews music sheet cabinet garnered global attention, selling for $212,400 (lot 3079, $180,000-$220,000).
Midway through 2013, Allen Michaan announced that long-standing Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Bradley would become a shareholder in the company. The move toward shared ownership was due to Bradley’s pivotal role and substantial contributions in building and establishing the auction house since its inception. Spectacular sales results, a marked increase in consignments and a broadened company exposure have all occurred during Bradley’s consistent leadership, helping to further Michaan’s Auctions’ overall reach and revenue.
Michaan’s Auctions continued its community involvement in 2013 in both sales and program participation. Annie Li was an Enterprise for High School Students program participant placed at Michaan’s in 2013. She assisted numerous departments with administrative tasks and used her Chinese language skills to aide clients as well. Enterprise for High School Students is a not-for-profit organization whose programs are open to all San Francisco high school students. Enterprise aims to prepare participants in need who may face barriers in their path to workplace success.
The October estate auction of 2013 saw successful charitable sales benefitting three worthwhile organizations. A group of 71 lots spanning various collecting categories were sold to benefit HIP Housing based in San Mateo, Calif. Two Duilio Barnabe contemporary paintings upon glass (lot 074, $500-$700, sold for $2,950) and a pair of Southeast Asian Art Nouveau white marble jardinieres (lot 064, $400-$600, sold for $1,534) were among successful lots sold to benefit the charity. HIP Housing provides housing resource referrals to an average of 3,000 people each year. Due to their assistance, over 1,400 low income clients find safe, clean and affordable homes annually.
Also of note was the sale of two carved coral bead, cultured pearl and 14K gold necklaces to benefit the Lace Museum in Sunnyvale, Calif., (lot 318, $500-$700). The necklaces sold for an astonishing price of $16,520. The Lace Museum and Guild is one of only two museums devoted primarily to lace in the western United States, relying heavily on volunteers and donations. Michaan’s also continued its relationship with the Alameda County Foodbank throughout the year, raising $18,565 for the organization.
Michaan’s Auctions invites the public in 2014 to exceptional sales offerings including fine art, jewelry, Asian works of art, furniture, decorative arts, modern design, stamps and coins.
For more information phone Michaan’s Auctions at 510-740-0220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE