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July Sale at Garth’s

Don Johnson | July 26th, 2013

Buddha hand, brown and white jade, Chinese, 18th or 19th century, 3" high, $14,100.

Carved circular ink stone showing a body of water, a building, and two birds in flight, possibly nephrite jade, Chinese, Qianlong period, signed by Zi Gang, 3¾" diameter, rim flakes, $30,550.

Pair of monumental seven-light silver candelabra marked for Buccellati, Italy, 20th century, with elaborate scrollwork decoration, 22" high, $23,500.

Carved teapot, jade, monkeys on the side and finial, Chinese, 20th century, 3¾" high, $16,870.

Cityscape executive desk by Paul Evans, 20th century, burlwood and chrome, 84" long, minor damage to the base, $2531.

Carved partner’s desk in mahogany, early 20th century, lattice-carved drawers and applied carved lion heads and fruit, 79" wide x 42" deep, old finish, wear to masks and leather writing surface, some replaced boards, some escutcheons missing, $6463.

Pair of majolica-style dog-form umbrella stands, Continental, 20th century, 31½" high, one cracked and having a sloppy repair, the other with glaze lifting at a piece of tape, both with general scuffs, marks and repaired hairlines, $7050.

Triptych by Chuang Che, abstract on white ground, acrylic on canvas, signed, each panel 60" square, slight soiling, $45,790.

Gilt bronze statue of the Arhat Pindola Bharadvaja, Tibet, 18th century, 3¾" high, wear and discoloration, some casting imperfections, hand holding mouse is crudely cast, $19,280.

Garth’s Auctions, Delaware, Ohio

Photos courtesy Garth’s

Amelia Jeffers, president of Garth’s Auctions, tells the story of a conversation she had about a year ago with an Americana collector in northeast Ohio. Jeffers recalled, “She said, ‘Amelia, I’ve got to be honest with you. It seems like you’re not in my business anymore.’”

The client’s comment came after Garth’s had expanded into more diverse categories, including Asian antiques. Yet the auction house hadn’t abandoned its bread-and-butter sales of Americana.

“I would say we have redoubled our efforts in the Americana market,” Jeffers said.

Nonetheless, she’s not surprised when someone points at an auction like the one held July 26 and 27 in Delaware, Ohio, and suggests that, no offense intended, the Asian material offered really isn’t Garth’s gig.

Yet July’s auction, having Asian antiques on the first day and a varied mix the second day—including mid-century modern, Continental, and American fine and decorative arts—proved there’s more to Garth’s than country furniture in original paint. The auction grossed more than $900,000, largely because of the insatiable appetite of the Chinese.

Asian collectors continue to hunt for their cultural heritage. That’s what ties sales such as the July 26 session with Garth’s usual fare of Americana. An ivory carving and a scroll painting might be vastly different from a New York sampler and an Ohio sewer tile dog, but it turns out that Chinese buyers are similar to American collectors half a world away. Jeffers explained, “The correlation is that when we really think about what that marketplace is looking for, they’re looking for the same thing that the Americana market is looking for. They’re looking for their culture.”

They found it at Garth’s, paying $45,790 (includes buyer’s premium) for a large triptych by Chuang Che (b. 1934), $30,550 for a Qianlong period ink stone in jade with Asian carvings, $23,500 for a carved jade vase, and $21,150 for an 18th- or 19th-century carved pendant in white jade.

Not that everything went so smoothly. About 20% of the Asian lots remained unsold. That figure would be unheard of in an Americana sale, but in the overall scheme of things, it was a lower pass rate than that of Garth’s January Asian sale. “When you pass twenty percent and still end up with [nearly] a million-dollar auction, it’s hard to complain,” Jeffers said.

The Asian session was also notable for the amount of interest coming from the Internet. On-line bidders purchased about 30% of the items, making it Garth’s highest single day of sales on Artfact. As Jeffers noted in a Facebook posting a day before the auction, “It really is crazy to think about all of these people, all over the world, looking at stuff in our old barn.”

The second session moved the focus to American and European material, led by nearly 100 lots of mid-century modern. The best of the material included a Cityscape executive desk by Paul Evans at $2531.

Overall, the Modernist material was good enough to warrant additional consideration. “We went into it knowing it’s a strong market, but it’s a market that, generally speaking, there’s a ceiling,” said Jeffers. “We had good solid quality across the board, and buyers responded to it well…If the immediate response after the auction is any indication, I would look for more mid-century modern from us in the coming months.”

Some of the more contemporary artwork flourished, with an Alexander Calder (1898-1976) signed and numbered limited edition lithograph of a study for his monumental La Grande Vitesse, the sculpture in Grand Rapids, Michigan, selling for $3055. However, nothing was bigger than an outdoor sculpture by Ernest Trova (1927-2009). The painted steel sculpture, executed in 1976, measuring nearly 12' high and more than 13' long, sold for $8225. Consigned by the Columbus (Ohio) Museum of Art, Trova’s work was sold in situ.

“There’s not a strong selling history for Ernest Trova,” said Jeffers, who noted that Christie’s handled the last outdoor example in 1996. “Since then it’s been smaller works. You can’t consider it comparable to this.” Despite corporate interest, the piece went to a private buyer.

Other top sellers during the second day included a pair of monumental Buccellati seven-light silver candelabra, Italian, 20th century, and 22" high, that sold for $23,500. Buccellati silver did well all day. “That company just retails for phenomenal dollars,” said Jeffers.

Also of interest were matching majolica-style dog-form umbrella stands. Rarity trumped condition, as the pair, Continental and from the 20th century, sold for $7050 against an estimate of $600/800.

For Jeffers, one of the more bewildering lots was an American partner’s desk from the early 20th century, mahogany with carved designs and a leather writing surface. Bidding went to $6463, more than ten times its upper estimate. “Isn’t this the puzzle of twentieth-century American furniture repros?” Jeffers asked. “It’s amazing to me that the repros are doing better than period furniture. I like it for the sellers; I’m happy for them. But I don’t understand the concept.”

The auction was also noteworthy for something beyond the merchandise sold. Among the material were antiques from the estate of Helen Porter, daughter of Tom and Carolyn Porter, former owners of Garth’s. Helen died of cancer on May 20.

“Helen was this really interesting character,” noted Jeffers, who, along with her husband, Jeff, chief executive officer of Garth’s, worked closely with Helen during the transition period when Tom and Carolyn Porter were still involved in the auction house and also after the Jeffers had assumed ownership of the business.

“Jeff and I really appreciated having her on board. She was well loved by everybody here at Garth’s. It was tragic to lose her,” Jeffers added. “It’s really hard to sell the things of someone like that. One of my favorite things was the Art Deco statue of a woman feeding a peacock. It was just such a sweet, sweet thing. She was really a special person. For us it was like she was still with us.”

For more information, phone (740) 362-4771 or visit the Web site (

Figural vase with elephant-head handles, the body carved with archaic beasts, jade, Chinese, Ming Dynasty, 7¼" high, polished base chip or carving imperfection, $15,665.

Vase, jade, Chinese, 9½" high, some pinpoint flakes to the base, $23,500.

Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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