Published: October 9, 2018
Review and Photos by Laura Beach
CRANSTON, R.I. – Characterized by its youth and ingenuity, Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers is a welcome addition to the New England auction scene. These days, the company is firing on all cylinders, reaching out to prospective buyers with innovative promotion and offerings that range from traditional antiques to pop culture collectibles.
The media-savvy outfit is particularly adept in the digital realm, offering online bidding through seven platforms, including its proprietary Bruneau app, and broadcasting its auctions live on Facebook and Instagram TV, with links to Twitter. Founder and president Kevin Bruneau, specialist Travis Landry and James Supp, Landry’s colleague on Antiques Roadshow, also host a weekly podcast series on collecting. Called the Justuff League, it can be downloaded at www.spreaker.com/show/justuff-league.
Bruneau’s September 22 live sale was suitably eclectic, featuring an appealing mix of traditional Americana, early Twentieth Century design, Asian art, architectural and automotive antiques, and secondary-market paintings, sculpture and prints.
Topping sales were three Tiffany Studios lamps consigned by a Houston collector. Bruneau presale estimates were right on target. The top lot, a circa 1910 bronze and glass floor lamp with a Dogwood shade, came in at $114,000, including buyer’s premium. A circa 1910 table lamp with a Poppy shade and an unusual turtleback glass and bronze base made $108,000. A circa 1915 table lamp with a Crocus shade on a bronze pine needle pattern base garnered $28,800, bringing the total to $250,800 for the trio.
John James Audubon’s “Ivory-Billed Woodpecker,” Birds of America, plate 66, from the Robert Havell first edition, London, 1829, sailed past its $6/9,000 estimate to bring $43,200. It was a daring purchase but clearly a knowledgeable one, since condition – the print had been affixed to cardboard and was torn on one corner – might have deterred a casual bidder. Large size was an attraction.
Seventeen color posters drawn by well-known artists and illustrators were another happy surprise. All had belonged to the Boston Company, a financial services group, which acquired them from Boston’s Ainsworth Gallery. The slew included designs by Charles H. Woodbury, Edward Penfield, Edward Potthast, Arthur W. Dow and William H. Bradley working for Harper’s, Scribner’s, The Chap-Book and Lippincott’s, among other publications. “Modern Art” by Dow came in at nearly ten times estimate to bring $4,500. The poster, published by L. Prang & Co. in 1897, advertises the French magazine Le Maîtres de L’affiche.
“The posters definitely exceeded our expectations. By having so many, we attracted every collector out there with our search terms and the like,” Landry explained.
New England case furniture lined the walls and old Oriental rugs in muted palettes covered the floors of Bruneau’s recently refurbished salesroom. Some of the property came from the Joseph Spaulding House in Pawtucket, R.I. In 2010, Betty Johnson donated house and contents to the Preservation Society of Pawtucket, which in turn chose to liquidate the gift. Highlighting the group was an Aaron Willard Jr flame mahogany banjo clock, $3,600.
Other consignors contributed a circa 1750 Newport Queen Anne tiger maple chest of drawers, $2,400, attributed to John Townsend by cabinetmaker Jeffrey P. Greene, who illustrated it in American Furniture of the 18th Century. A flame-stitched pocketbook said to have been made by Lucy Daggett in 1774 was a nice buy at $1,320.
It was largely a buyer’s market for Americana, prompting Landry, who is 22, to observe, “My thought is that people need to be educated in a different fashion. My friends respond if I say, ‘this bad-ass chest is older than our country and I’m storing my clothes in it. People appreciate history if it is presented in a way they understand.”
Predicting the market for Chinese art and antiques is a perennial challenge. The Yangcai famille rose landscape vase, possibly an early Twentieth Century copy, surprised, selling for $14,400 against an estimate of $2/3,000. A Celadon porcelain tripod censer bowl left the room at $12,000.
In the contemporary art realm, Bruneau’s saw superior results for “Small Red Painting,” a 1961 oil on canvas by John Von Wicht, $2,700; an audiokinetic ball machine sculpture by George Rhoads, $5,400; “Marilyn with Gold Roses,” a limited edition embellished lithograph by Bert Stern, $2,400; and the silkscreen on paper, “Yankee Doodle,” by Gene Davis, $2,700.
Landry, especially keen on urban street art these days, recommended a boisterous mixed media painting by Tom Bobrowiecki (b 1962), called Tom Bob. Hammered at $510, the painting ended up in Landry’s bedroom. “That was a little esoteric because it was such an early work for him,” the expert said. “When it comes to street art, you have the top five, including Shepard Fairey and Banksy, and everyone else.”
In his preview of coming attractions, Landry showed us a copy of the March 1954 issue of The Flash (#105). Depending on how the experts score it, it should bring at least $7,000 and possibly more than $25,000 at Bruneau’s December 1 Pop Culture sale, a collaboration with Altered Reality Entertainment.
Bruneau & Company Auctioneers is at 63 Fourth Avenue. For information, 401-533-9980 or www.bruneauandco.com.
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