Archive for March, 2016


Pritikin’s Pets: Trio of Bufano Animal Sculptures Debut at Michaan’s

The Pritikin Museum, a private, not-for-profit institution located on Chenery Street, is one of the largest private estates in the city of San Francisco. The Pritikin Museum at Chenery House’s art collection was recently estimated to be valued at over $50 million, accounting for a mishmash of different periods, styles and curiosities. Michaan’s Inspiring Interiors auction of April 8, 2016 highlights three excellent Beniamino Bufano sculptures from the Pritikin consignment, kicking off offerings stemming from the institution’s collection. The animal depictions, streamlined, stylized and elegant, include the stone Mole (lot 2300, $10,000-15,000), the carved marble Owl (lot 2298, $10,000-15,000) and bronze Partridge (lot 2299, $8,000-12,000).

Mole (lot 2300, $10,000-15,000)

Mole (lot 2300, $10,000-15,000)


Owl (lot 2298, $10,000-15,000)

Owl (lot 2298, $10,000-15,000)


Partridge (lot 2299, $8,000-12,000)

Partridge (lot 2299, $8,000-12,000)

Select Asian works of art, collectibles and fine art from the Pritikin consignment will also be made available in Michaan’s estate auction of April the 9th, one day after the Inspiring Interiors sale. Additional Pritikin lots will also be sold in Michaan’s May estate auction, with a William Trego oil painting titled Fort Haskell 1865 ($20,000-25,000) debuting in the June fine sale as well. The illustrated auction catalogs will be posted online at when they become available. Previews for the Inspiring Interiors auction will be held on April the 2nd, 3rd and the 8th, the day of sale. Previews for the April estate auction will be held on the 2nd, 3rd, 8th and 9th, the day of sale. For general information please call (510) 740-0220 ext. 0 or e-mail Michaan’s Auctions is located at 2751 Todd Street, Alameda, CA 94501.


California Auctions are Really Exciting

Let’s face it; if you are a collector of the most beautiful and rare stuff, whether it is exquisite antiques or masterful artwork, you will need to participate in the auctions to obtain the rarest items.

The really rare and wonderful things in the world are almost always sold by auction.

The auction process is not for the faint of heart, because you will be going up against others that are well- funded and maybe even more well- funded than you are when the richest of the rich want something, they will pay whatever it is necessary to get it.

The billionaires use brokers to make bids for them so they can, for the most part, remain anonymous. Every once in a while the story leaks out about who the actual bidder was that won the rare item at an extraordinary high auction price.

One example of this, is when Bill Gates, through a broker paid US $30.8 million for a set of hand written notes, called the “Codex Leicester,” made by Leonardo Da Vinci. Gates bought this notebook in 1994. He was a billionaire at the time, but still paid over thirty million for such ancient hand scribbled notes. This does seem slightly eccentric.

Auctions of the Most Rare Stuff Make History

Buying something at an auction for a price that seems outlandish is a bit about getting bragging rights and beating the other bidders. When a Van Gough painting sold for over $82.5 million at an auction in 1990, this news made world headlines. Please note that the only painting Van Gough ever sold while he was alive was one bought by his brother Theo for just the equivalent of a few dollars. Van Gough died as an insane, poor person, that never for any recognition whatsoever for his creativity while he was alive.

Sticker Shock

If the price of the Van Gough paining impresses, just look at what happened since then:

10. EDVARD MUNCH “The Scream”, painted in 1895, sold in 1992 for $119.9 million
9. GUSTAV KLIMT “Adele Bloch- bauer I”, painted in 1907, sold in 2006 for $135 million
8. ILLEM DE KOONING “Woman III”, painted in 1952-53, sold in 2006 for $137.5 million
7. JACKSON POLLOCK “Number 5, 1948”, painted in 1948, sold in 2006 for $140 million
6. Francis Bacon “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” Painted in 1969, sold in 2013 for $145 million
5. PABLO PICASSO “La Réve (The Dream)”, painted in 1932, sold in 2013 for $157.5 million
4. AMEDEO MODIGLIANI “Nu couché (reclining Nude)”, Painted in 1917-18 , sold in    2015 for $170.4 million
3. PABLO PICASSO “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”)”, painted in 1955, sold in 2015 for $179.4 million
2. PAUL CÉZANNE “The Card Players”, painted in 1892/1893, sold in 2011 for $250 million

And the highest price paid so far for a single painting is….

1. PAUL GAUGUIN “Nafea faa ipoipo? (When will you marry?)”, painted in 1892, sold in 2015 for $300 million.

All we can say is WOW!


Buying Art at Auction Instead of a Gallery

Auctions are typically a wonderful way to access artworks from private and institutional collections that have a known provenance. However, not all auctions and art auctioneers are created equal, and there are many factors that make purchasing art at auction different from buying out of a commercial gallery.

The Ability to Plan

With commercial galleries and even at art fairs, buyers may not know in advance what the dealer has available or what additional inventory he or she may have. An auction, on the other hand, allows purchasers to plan and research potential pieces of interest in advance. Art auctioneers publish catalogs of upcoming sales and the items included, so that potential buyers will be able to make a plan before attending the sale.

The Buyer’s Premium

Depending on the auction platform, buyers will likely be responsible for paying an additional fee—or buyer’s premium—that will be a percentage of the final hammer price. Sometimes these amounts are set percentages while other houses may cap premiums at a certain amount, particularly when handling high value sales.

A Central Marketplace

Particularly in art, auctions can serve as a transparent marketplace for purchasers. While commercial galleries may never release sales figures, auction houses will typically post the information publicly following a sale.

At the same time, it can be impossible to figure out what budgets a gallery caters to without knowing each artist’s individual market, so an auction may allow purchasers of all budgets access to a range of works across different styles.

Research Resources

Since art auctioneers publish catalogs before sales, potential buyers have the opportunity to do in-depth research on the artists or work they are interested in. This may mean accessing an online database to see past sales history, or talking with professionals in the art field about the specifics of a piece.

Furthermore, works at auction will typically come with appraisals and provenance details for each work. This allows purchasers both before and after a sale to know how long the work has been available, where it has been shown, and any prominent collections or institutions it has been part of.


How Auction Houses Help Heirs Deal With the Contents of an Inherited Home

When a loved one passes away, it is typically left up to the heirs and/or the executor of an estate to determine what should be done with the contents of a home. This can be a very emotionally wrenching and difficult task. Homes, especially those of the elderly, often contain thousands of items and while many items will probably end up being worthless, there is always the chance that other things could potentially be worth a lot of money.

On the other hand, there are also items in a home that may seem valuable to an heir that may in reality have little to no value. For example, the deceased may have left a set of chairs that the heirs have always been told were Chippendale and possibly worth tens of thousands of dollars. Yet, when the heirs try to sell them, they learn that the chairs are merely cheap reproductions.

So how should a person go about determining what items in an estate are actually valuable and what may be worthless? If there is the possibility that the home may contain valuable antiques, the heirs may want to consider hiring a professional auction house to come to the house to appraise the contents. They will have the expertise to determine whether or not an heir has inherited treasures or trash.

Even estates that may seem to contain nothing of value may hold surprisingly valuable items. For example, in 2000, a man purchased two boxes of glass plates containing images of Yosemite National Park for $45 at a garage sale. Those plates later tuned out to be negatives take by iconic American photographer Ansel Adams and were estimated to be worth $200 million. Sadly, the original owner of the plates lost out on making any real money on these treasures. Money they might have been able to keep for themselves if they had just hired an auction appraiser. Because chances are that a knowledgeable appraiser would have recognized the true value of these extraordinary plates and not have sold them for $45.

In some cases, auction houses will also list and sell items for an estate—in effect, becoming estate liquidators—which can be a real bonus for heirs or executors who just don’t have the time to deal with disposing the contents of a home on their own.


Art Auction Houses and the Sales Catalog

One of the biggest advantages to purchasing artwork at auction is that art auction houses publish catalogs well in advance of each sale that describe each piece. Often each listing will have images, estimated sale amounts and notes on the piece’s condition. For many collectors the sales catalog becomes a collection piece in and of itself, particularly for notable sales at houses that still publish printed books.

However, the catalog is equally important to the auction house as well. First of all, it provides a detailed record of what was listed at every auction. Second of all, it allows for easy organization and access for processes like sales order and price recording.

Creating the Catalog

Art auction houses may have a dedicated team of employees that specialize in producing catalogs for each auction category. Often these individuals have advanced degrees in their respective field, and they have experience writing about the history and market of art. By having art professionals who specialize in particular market areas, the auction houses can help to ensure that the objects they have listed are appropriately categorized and valued.

The catalog will typically list items in the order that they will appear in the sale. This means that the layout of the sale needs to be determined before the catalog can be published.

Catalogs as Research Resources

A huge benefit of auction catalogs for both collectors and art researchers is that they allow for the tracking of previous sales history. This is an essential tool for determining an item’s accurate provenance. Most art auction sales are typically based on a certain style or time period- such as an Old Master’s sale or an American Art sale. Therefore, it is easy to search catalogs by keyword or subject in the same way one would find any other references.

The Library of Congress has started to record catalogs of prominent art auctions throughout history. This serves as a database of resources for researches of provenance and for those looking for relative market values throughout history. Similarly, most major art museums and university libraries contain significant holdings related to art auction houses’ catalog history.