Asheville – Brunk Auctions in Asheville is an international auction house with a worldwide reach. They sell fine and decorative art, as well as high quality antiques through their monthly auctions. Paintings, sculptures, jewelry, furniture, silver, coins, clocks, and other desirable antiques are all sold to the highest bidder. Interested buyers can now bid in person on Tunnel Road during the auction, or bid remotely by telephone, absentee or online platform. Live bidders were welcomed back in September, 2021. Brunk Auctions has become an international marketplace with a worldwide reach. Much excitement often surrounds the auction when an unusual or particularly interesting piece is brought to the podium for bidding. Paddles are raised, and the phone bidders rise. Brunk will have given their researched estimate of the “object’s” worth. Individuals, galleries, and museums from around the world place their bids to purchase a coveted item. The auctioneer recognizes a bid as the highest one to be placed. “Going, Going, Gone!” The item is sold to the last bidder. Even in today’s tough economic climate, handsome prices are being realized in the marketplace.
A Rare and Important Portrait
In late May, the “Portrait of a Creole Woman in a Madras Tignon” was the highlight of Brunk’s Premier Auction and sold for just under a million dollars to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The original, known in recent decades only by a popular copy that hangs in the Louisiana State Museum, surfaced from a private collection for auction earlier this year. With an opening bid of $100,000 and an estimated price of $200,000 to $300,000, the painting was hammered down and purchased by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for a final price of $984,000.
Once the portrait has been assessed by the conservation department and received any necessary treatments, it will go on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.
The painting was thought to portray the famous Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, a free woman of color in New Orleans before the Civil War. Although the portrait is not actually of Laveau, everyone involved, including the auction house, bidders, and the winner of the auction, were aware of the association.
Another Record Sale
The pottery of the prolific and talented American potter, Dave Drake (circa 1800–1870) of Edgefield, South Carolina, brought the astounding price of $369,000 in 2020. South Carolina was home to a thriving pottery industry. Drake was born into slavery on a North Carolina plantation and spent most of his life in Edgefield, S.C., where his owners ran a plantation factory specializing in alkaline glaze stoneware. Although it is unclear exactly how he learned to read and write, it is thought that the Rev. John Landrum of Horn’s Creek Baptist Church and Dr. Abner Landrum, editor of the local newspaper, may have taught him how to read the Bible. Remarkably, Drake inscribed some 40 of his approximately 175 surviving works with prose or poetry in an era when both reading and writing by enslaved people were widely prohibited.
The works of this amazing American potter have been purchased by major museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Charleston Museum, and the Greenville County Museum of Art. Serious competition for this jar resulted as two institutions started both bidding on the phone against each other, making the hammer price a record for this stoneware Drake jar. The word “catination” is inscribed on it. A variation of “catenation” means the state of being yoked or chained. The stoneware storage jar will be on view July 1 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.
For those interested, one should note that in mid July, at the Premier & Emporium Auction, another Dave Drake Edgefield Jug from 1852 will be for sale from a private Southen collection. This is a one-handled jug that has a gorgeous light olive green run down the side and stands 14 ½ inches tall. It is estimated at $25,000-$45,000. This upcoming auction will take place from July 14th to July 16th, starting at 9:00 a.m. More information can be found on the website at www.brunkauctions.com.
According to the Brunk website, “To put the significance of the new record into context, a little background on the works of Dave seemed to be in order, so we turned to Brunk Auctions’ specialist in Southern pottery, who relies heavily on existing research on Dave’s pottery. Recent scholarship is that of Arthur F. Goldberg and James P. Witkowski, whose article “Beneath His Magic Touch: The Dated Vessels of the African American Slave Potter Dave” was published in the 2006 issue of the Chipstone Foundation’s journal, Ceramics in America.
Made at a time when literacy among enslaved people was not permitted, Dave’s inscribed pieces are an improbable and astonishing record of Southern pottery manufacture. According to Goldberg and Witkowski’s article, 1829 was the earliest year when Dave began to inscribe the date of manufacture on his works, and his name does not appear on pieces prior to 1840. Only three works with words or inscriptions were made prior to the jar Brunk just sold and only seven pieces with earlier dates are known.
Based in Asheville, North Carolina, Brunk Auctions has grown from a small regional auction house to one of international stature. Founded in 1983 by Robert Brunk, the company is now run by Andrew Brunk, his son, who works with his business partner and wife, Lauren Brunk, and a staff of over 25 auction professionals. Brunk Auctions is located at 117 Tunnel Road in a 26,000 square foot facility.
Andrew Brunk’s experience includes his work as the head of the American Furniture Department at Christie’s, New York, and as an assistant curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As a furniture and folk art expert, he has made seasonal appearances on Antiques Road Show since 2000. Lauren Brunk is Vice President of Brunk Auctions. Her fine art and auction experience began in 1991, including work in the Americana Department at Sotheby’s, in New Media at Christie’s and as private curator for two significant Americana and Paintings Collections. In addition, a large staff of specialists in the various departments come from world renowned galleries and auction houses, as well as world class photographers, business managers, marketing specialists and art handlers are needed to coordinate the many functions involved in producing a smooth-running auction, including catalogues, showroom and delivery of items.
A number of upcoming sales are noteworthy and should be of interest. The Southeast Asian Textile Collection of Dr. Allen Grimes will be July 15, 2022; the Premier and Emporium Auction, July 14-16th, an Asian Art auction August 18; Premier and Emporium Auctions September 15-17; and the Collection of Peter H. Tillou on September 30th, 2022. More information on these and earlier auctions can be found at www. brunkauctions.com. or call 828 354-6846.