When Asian art specialist Sean Blanchet moved to Minnesota five years ago, he noticed that all the high-level fine art was being shipped out of town to be sold.
Thanks to Blanchet, along with painting and sculpture specialist Robert Snell, Minneapolis has a new fine art auction house. It’s called Revere Auctions, and is located in the International Market Square. They held their first auction there in March.
If an art auction sounds out of your league, think again. At an Asian art auction, several purchased Japanese woodblock prints for around $250. That price isn’t reflective of the quality of the art; it’s just that the market value for such art is low right now, meaning buyers got to take home original works for bargain prices.
The June 23 auction, which features decorative and Native American art, will offer several items under $2,000, including a modern Italian glass lamp ($600 to $800), Japanese and American Modernist ceramics ($100 to $200), and a variety of vintage Navajo jewelry pieces. “It’s a great way for people to decorate their homes with artworks for an affordable price,” Snell says.
You’ll also see some unusual objects for sale, like a solid gold nose hair plucker and a solid gold champagne swizzle stick.
The auctions are free and open to the public and there’s no dress code. Some attend as spectators only, and the co-founders are fine with that. “It’s a fun environment to be a part of. There’s no pressure to buy,” says Snell. “It’s really exciting, too, when an object that doesn’t have a high estimate and all of a sudden you see people going crazy for and selling for a lot more money.”
Having a fine art auction house in town can be good for the local arts scene, too. Revere Auctions donates some proceeds from sales to various programs at local museums. Earlier this year, they sent a percentage of an event’s profits to a Minnesota artists program at Mia, where the funds will be used to purchase artwork by living Minnesota artists and to put on shows for local artists.
An auction house also acts as a secondary market for artwork. When buyers feel confident that there’s a venue where they can sell a piece of art in the future if they need to, they’re more likely to buy it in the first place and to spend more money when they do buy.
Having an auction house in Minneapolis has also been a boon for an art market that has been dominated by estate sales since WWII. While estate sales are a laid back and easy way to sell works of art valued under $500, they don’t net market value when pieces worth $10,000 and up are on the line. Auctions are a better way to sell those pricier pieces. “The event, the excitement, and the marketing around that is much more successful at auction,” Blanchet says.
They allow bidding in person, by phone, or via the internet, so buyers can participate no matter where they are in the world. Art collectors in South Korea, Japan, and China have already participated in their auctions.
Revere Auctions is also the first fine art auction house in the U.S. and the second in the world (to the co-founders’ knowledge) to accept Bitcoin. “There’s a lot of people who want to spend the enormous amount of Bitcoin they have and providing an avenue for that is part of good marketing,” Blanchet says regarding that decision.
Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrency that use blockchain technology have another upside: It helps create a trail of ownership for art. “During WWII, art was looted and stolen and people couldn’t prove that it belonged to their families or had trouble finding it,” Blanchet says. “Blockchain technology is a great way to prevent that from happening and defining a clear chain of title.”
After less than a year in business, Blanchet and Snell are already hunting for a new space where they’ll be closer to working artists. Because the auctions draw a lot a foot traffic, potential buyers will be exposed to the vibrant local arts scene.
“By supporting local artists and encouraging people to follow them and buy their work, we create a market for those artists and that creates opportunity down the road for us to buy and sell works by those artists,” Snell says. “It’s good for local artists because it creates a more fertile ground of buyers and collectors for them.”
IF YOU GO:
Fine Native American and Decorative Art Auction
10 a.m. Sat., June 23
International Market Square
275 Market St., Ste. 524, Minneapolis