Published: January 4, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Michaan’s
ALAMEDA, CALIF. – Michaan’s said that it is the first California auction house to offer Banksy’s “Girl with Balloon,” which, as expected, was the top lot in the firm’s Fine sale on December 17. It was just one of three December auctions hosted by Michaan’s, December 13-18, followed by the monthly gallery auction on December 18, and preceded by the three-day Annex auction.
The timing of the Banksy offering was propitious. “The Art of Banksy” exhibition at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts, extended through February 27, is an unauthorized show of more than 80 Banksy works from private collections, including “Girl With Balloon.” The art and auction worlds gasped when the image became the basis for Banksy’s sensational self-shredding work, “Love is in the Bin,” in 2018 and which Sotheby’s sold in October 2021 for $25.4 million, a record for the artist. Michaan’s estimated “Girl With Balloon” at $100/150,000 in the auction on December 17, but the piece, which had been purchased by the consignor in the early 2000s at a flash sale Banksy put on in a London warehouse, rose to $174,000. “Girl with Balloon” was accompanied by the new certificate of authenticity from Banksy’s Pest Control Office.
The December auction series capped a fourth quarter of highly anticipated events with phenomenal results, according to Michaan’s founder and chief executive officer Allen Michaan. “These are exciting times in the auction business,” he said. “We are reaching more buyers than ever before, and our team is bringing fantastic property to them, from distinguished clients we are so proud to represent.”
There were thrills at the Fine sale when a world auction record was set for a work on paper by the artist Ernie Barnes. His mixed media study sketch of a couple dancing with tremendous verve and dynamism was estimated $1,5/2,500 and sold for $24,000. Several works by Ira Yeager (b 1938) were sold, with his “Chicken Lady” oil on canvas reaching $18,000, the second highest price realized by the artist at auction.
American landscape painter Albert Bierstadt was also featured. “The Hudson,” a quintessential Bierstadt subject of a figure walking through a rainbow-illuminated landscape in oil on paper laid to panel, brought $18,000.
Fine paintings of iconic European cityscapes continue to sell briskly, with “The Grand Canal, Venice,” by a follower of Canaletto, bringing $39,000, well above its $8/12,000, estimate.
Alphonse Mucha (Czechoslovakian, 1860-1939), a sensation at Michaan’s over the course of several auctions in 2021, was represented in the Fine sale with a lot of four original posters, “The Times of the Day,” which sold for $17,220, and a 72-plate portfolio that realized $15,600.
A top-selling diamond ring came from the estate of Lois Lehrman (1931-2021), San Francisco’s grande dame of society and local business leadership. Lehrman transformed the Nob Hill Gazette into the glossy, colorful, publication it is today: the essential guide to life among San Francisco’s bold-faced names. Chief among the Lehrman estate pieces was the diamond and platinum ring centering a stone of more than 4 carats. It sold for $50,800.
Among the highlights in the Asian category was a Chinese bronze alloy figure of Bhaisajyaguru Buddha, which soared to $42,000. Finely cast with legs neatly crossed in dhyanasana, the hands folded in dhyana mudra, the bare chest incised with a swastika Wen emblem and framed by the elegant robes with floral borders, the gently rounded face with serene expression was framed by tightly curled hair. The 19-inch bronze seated figure, possibly Ming dynasty, had been estimated at $6/8,000.
Tiffany material was also ascendant in the Fine sale. A banded dogwood glass lamp shade by Tiffany Studios brought $21,600. Another art glass lot drew the interest of San Francisco history buffs: the “Peacock window” from Bardelli’s restaurant, a local favorite for much of the Twentieth Century. Comprising three glass panels, this nostalgic lot sold for $19,200.
In the monthly gallery auction on the following day, Asian art highlights include Chinese plaques of carved cinnabar and carved white jade, and a group of Laotian Buddha figures with shrine. A Chinese guan type octagonal bottle vase with a bluish-green glaze smoked its $800-$1,200 presale estimate to finish at $9,000. “We see tremendous vigor in the Asian art collecting community,” said Michaan’s specialist, Annie Zeng, who added that she anticipates no slowdown in the coming year. Also making notable prices were a Chinese flambé copper red glazed plate, Qianlong period, at $3,900 and a silver-streaked Jian bowl that went all the way to $6,600.
Fine art, too, sold at the gallery auction on December 18, a lineup that included American landscapes, Pop art and fine prints. “Sunset with Palms,” a tapestry by Mark Adams (American, 1925-2006), sold for $3,900. Original celluloids from The Beatles’ 1968 animated film, Yellow Submarine, brought $2,400, and “Les Fleurs,” an oil on canvas by David Davidovich Burliuk, the Ukrainian-born avant-garde Russian language poet, critic and artist, sold for $2,700.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house, For information, www.michaans.com or 510-740-0220.
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