Published: November 12, 2019
Review by Anne Kugielsky, Photos Courtesy Lark Mason Associates
NEW BRAUNFELS, TEXAS – Lark Mason Associates’ auction of the personal collections of Anthony Bourdain was not a typical auction event, just as the man whose possessions were being sold was not typical. Nor was it a traditional “celebrity” auction although by all measures, Bourdain was certainly a celebrity.
According to owner Lark Mason Jr, “It was an auction that told a story – Anthony Bourdain loved to tell stories, and we thought the auction should reflect that – through the objects he owned, we told his story.”
The framework of the auction was also different. Leading up to the October 9 start of the online-only auction and during its first weeks, there were three preview events that introduced people to Bourdain, to show what he owned and collected reflected the eclectic man. “We told his story in an immersive event in New Braunfels with Negroni cocktails (Bourdain’s favorite), the Ramones playing through the galleries and videos of his shows; a preview and reception in New York City and an exhibition at the Telfair Museum in Savannah, Ga., where we served Popeye’s fried chicken (Bourdain’s favorite fast food) to reach the people who would retell Tony’s story.”
Clearly the strategy worked when more than 3,000 bidders registered at iGavel.com to bid on a range of items from books – both by Bourdain and others reflecting his varied interests – and personal mementos to carefully chosen works of art, as well as cultural artifacts he accumulated during his travels. Many of these items had special significance to Bourdain, either as gifts from friends or special purchases associated with memorable experiences from his writing or television appearances. Most did not have a great deal of intrinsic value, Mason said, so he thought the sale might net in the $200/400,000 area – instead, all of the 202 lots were sold, in most cases significantly overestimate, realizing a total of $1,846,575.
“The overwhelmingly strong results were just what we hoped they would be. Anthony Bourdain connected with many, many people and he was beloved and an intensely original person who lived life fully. The numerous bidders wanted something to remember him by and to promote the Anthony Bourdain Legacy Scholarship at the Culinary Institute of America.”
Early in the process of organizing the auction, Mason, Laurie Woolever, Anthony Bourdain’s assistant and collaborator who was instrumental in telling Bourdain’s stories around his personal collections, and Bourdain’s family decided that a portion of the proceeds from the sale would go to the Anthony Bourdain Legacy Scholarship at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Bourdain’s alma mater.
Established shortly after Bourdain’s death by two of his personal friends and chefs, Eric Ripart and José Andrés, the scholarship is for CIA students who hope to follow Anthony’s global path of discovery.
“We are tremendously grateful that such a generous portion of these auction proceeds will support the scholarship,” said Dr Tim Ryan, president of the CIA. “Anthony showed us that traveling to experience other cuisines and cultures first-hand is invaluable both in and outside the kitchen. We are proud to be able to support our students, the future leaders of the food industry, in following in his footsteps.” (The family decided that 40 percent of their proceeds would go to the scholarship.)
A record price of $231,250 was achieved for Bourdain’s Bob Kramer steel and meteorite chef’s knife, which was one of his favorite tools, “the most awesome knife in the world,” as he once said; it sold to an unidentified bidder who, according to Mason, is involved in the culinary world and is internationally respected.
Another top lot was Bourdain’s US Navy jacket from the USS Nashville with a Tony Bourdain patch, which fetched $171,150. It was from the crew that helped evacuate the No Reservations production team from Beirut when a war heated up while they were filming.
In addition to the chef’s knife and Navy bomber jacket, other top lots include items that reflect Bourdain’s diverse interests. A French silvered-bronze Bibendum or Michelin Man sculpture (22-inches high and almost 17 pounds), given to Bourdain by Marco Pierre White, sold at $61,250.
Ralph Steadman (British, b 1936), “Rats in the Kitchen and the head pastry cook’s drinking problem became a daily occurrence,” giclee print, signed and dated 2009 lower right, artists proof inscribed to Anthony Bourdain, realized $52,500.
A Rolex mens oyster perpetual date blue dial and stainless steel watch brought $48,750. Bourdain preferred Rolex watches, his sense of design and style leaned toward form, but he also demanded function. Like many items, this watch had been worn, used and thus was even more in demand. That is true for a Panerai Radiomir wristwatch, selling at $33,750, a Patek Philippe Calatrava isochronism glass back 18K gold watch, $26,250 and a Tag Heuer Monaco wristwatch, which sold at $20,627.
A chrome duck press from the Paris episode of The Layover brought $35,000. A Peter Lovig Nielsen teak flip top desk, Denmark, Twentieth Century, was from Bourdain’s apartment, which was decorated in his style: comfort, warmth with good design – everything balanced but tough and usable, as Mason said. “His desk was something he used all the time. It had lots of open space and yet was highly designed as well as functional.” The condition report said, “lacking some tray elements from the letter holes; some wear from use, including some scuffed or gouged surfaces,” but it sold at $30,000.
Rounding out some of the top lots were a bronze skull and antler sculpture, Marco Pierre White, $26,250; Brad Phillips (Canadian), “Eat, Pray, Get The Fuck Out,” watercolor on paper, $23,125; John Lurie (American, b 1952), “The Sky is Falling. I am Learning to Live with It,” watercolor, $19,625; a menu by Henry Miller, signed and given to Bourdain by his son, Tony Miller, $19,375; and from The Simpsons a television script for “The Food Wife,” with signed inscriptions to Anthony Bourdain from the cast and crew, $18,750.
Woolever expressed the theme of the auction when she said, “I’m pleased to see that Tony’s art, furnishings, watches, books and collectibles have found new homes with people who appreciate his sensibilities, and that the sale of these items will allow future generations of CIA students to explore the world.”
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