Modern Chinese Plaques Heat Up The Gallery At Clarke Auction

LARCHMONT, N.Y. — August is “cleanout” month in Westchester County, and Clarke New York supported the cause by dispersing more than 300 lots of treasures gathered from area estates over the previous summer months when it presented its sale of fine art, Midcentury, antiques and Asian items on August 19 at its 2372 Boston Post Road saleroom.

That address has been the firm’s home for about three years, and the building’s 20-foot-high ceilings, cavernous main gallery, ample storage and a patron-friendly combination of dedicated as well as legal street parking afford a big improvement over the firm’s previous space on North Avenue.

Formerly known as C&C Auctions, Clarke New York was started in 1998 by Ron Clarke, the entrepreneurial Irishman who came to New York City in 1988 via London. With alacrity, Clarke advanced from being a picker to owning two retail antiques stores and All Boro Estate Liquidators and opening his own auction gallery, which quickly became “Westchester’s premier” auction facility.

There seemed to be a couple of themes at play during this sale, according to Clarke. One was the continued strength of quality Asian material as well as Midcentury Modern items. Another was an uptick in a long moribund category — so-called “brown” furniture. A set of four large signed Chinese porcelain plaques were “very new, only about 30 years old,” said Clarke. From a Quogue, N.Y., home, the plaques, 45 by 12½ inches, resonated with a Chinese buyer in the gallery, who prevailed as they were bid to $18,300 against a modest $1,5/2,000 presale estimate.

Ardor for Asian material continued well into the sale, too, as a Chinese lot that included two probably 1970s porcelain framed plaques and three Chinese calligraphic framed pieces surged well past its $300/500 estimate to find an Internet buyer willing to pay $4,392. Remarkably, the pieces had come in on one of Clarke’s Wednesday Walk-in Appraisal Days from a Plainsboro, N.J., patron and were offered in “as found” condition.

In a similar state was a large Midcentury upholstered sofa from a White Plains, N.Y., estate. The sofa, measuring 109 inches wide by 36 inches deep by 28½ inches high, sported upholstery that was described in the catalog as “very as is.” “We would have called it a ‘curb find,’ said, Clarke, “but three people on the floor — all trade — were on it.” Estimated $300/500, the sofa left the Post Road curb at $7,930.

A fine art highlight was an after Thomas Gainsborough oil on canvas painting of travelers in a landscape. Not apparently signed, it was inscribed verso with partial old label verso and came from a Mount Vernon, N.Y., home. Measuring 16¾ by 22 inches and untouched, with old lining, craqueleur and yellowed varnish, the painting beat its $600/900 estimate to bring $5,612.

Clarke’s fine art specialist Nelia Moore noted that the sale’s other top painting, an oil on Masonite by Haitian artist Jasmin Joseph (b 1923) came in via a Wednesday walk-in appraisal day patron who had purchased it at a yard sale for a few dollars, having recognized the artist’s name. The colorful painting depicted the fable of the “The Lion and the Hare” and was signed and dated 1973 lower left. A persistent bidder in the gallery and a phone bidder pushed the painting, estimated at $600/900, to a final price of $3,294.

Illustrating Clarke’s observation that, at least for this sale, “brown furniture” was staging a bit of a comeback, a marble top mahogany dining set fell within its estimate at $3,904, and an antique continental two-drawer commode, possibly fruitwood, finished at $3,660. The dining set comprised a mirror, marble top server, two-door marble top commode, china cabinet, dining table and six chairs, while the antique commode featured carvings and a serpentine front.

Additional highlights included a vintage Goyard traveling trunk/wardrobe from a Long Island estate that took $3,172, a sterling Towle “Contour” flatware set that was monogrammed and weighed a total of 94.4 troy ounces selling for $2,196 and a leather Chesterfield sofa — one of two offered in the sale — that realized $2,074.

Taking stock of the business three years after moving to this location, Clarke was sanguine. “We’ve been doubling up [sales] every year, I’ve got a great team and we continue to find good things,” he said.

Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. Clarke’s next sale is September 8. For information, www.clarkeny.com or 914-833-8336.

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