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Garth’s Dispatches Diplomat’s Chinese,Korean Collection

Review by Madelia Hickman Ring


On Sunday, June 14, Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers auctioned 201 lots in a sale titled “The 50 Year Asian & Korean Collection of a United States Gentleman Diplomat, Serving Asia 1958-1988.” The sale concluded with 98 percent of lots selling. It was a timed online-only sale, without bidders allowed into the saleroom, though the auction house welcomed and encouraged people to make appointments to come and preview in person. “As collectors ourselves, we know when you get in the room with objects, you’re able to see and understand color, line, form, texture in a way you can’t from a computer screen,” Garth’s chief executive officer and principal auctioneer, Jeff Jeffers, told us by phone after the sale. He said the sale received international interest, with overseas buyers from Asia, Europe and the United Kingdom, as well as some from Ohio.

“We were so pleased to work with executors who are committed to the best possible outcome and we appreciated very much the opportunity to work with this gentleman’s collection. The diversity of both traditional Korean works and the modern component based on his friendships made overseas and over the years really made the content quite interesting.”

The first of three Chinese snuff bottles to bring $5,625, the top price in the sale, was this white jade partial pebble example with polished russet skin and coral stopper. It went to an online bidder ($300/600).

Approximately one-quarter of the auction were snuff bottles, all of which sold and which led the sale in prices, including the top price realized – $5,625. Three snuff bottles were traded for that price, all cataloged as mid-Twentieth Century and all carved from white jade with russet skin and coral stoppers. The snuff bottles were from the trust of Debow Freed, an Ohio collector. “We knew there would be a lot of upward mobility and there would be some strong prices. There was both depth and width in the collection and, because we could estimate things conservatively, we could drive the price,” Jeffers said in reflection.

The diplomat who spent 50 years amassing this collection had been a champion of contemporary Asian artists, whose artwork comprised a large portion of the sale. Among artists represented were Yoong Bae (Korean, 1928-1992) with 19 lots of original artwork and multiples, led by a mixed-media work that brought $625. Works by Woong Kim (Korean, b 1944) were available in five lots, headed by a mixed-media work from 1983 that made $781.

Traditional fine art was modestly offered and primarily consisting of scrolls and screens for both wall and floor, though there were some paintings of generals and immortals. Furniture in the sale was primarily Korean, led by an inlaid stacked chest that went out at $375 and another that finished at $250. Korean shelves made $250, a cabinet brought $281, while a miniature chest closed at $150.

The sale offered metal works early on, starting with a Fourteenth or Fifteenth Century Thai bronze Buddha bust that made $531 and Nineteenth Century Southeast Asian rain drum that bidders pounded away at until it closed at $875.

Dragons abounded throughout, chased to $200 on a bronze bell, a Korean silla pottery ewer that reached $137 and on the final lot of the sale, a blue and white Chinese porcelain snuff bottle that made $162.

Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.

Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers is at The Municipal Light Plant at 589 West Nationwide Boulevard. For information, or 740-362-4771.


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Garth's welcomes media inquiries regarding pre-auction stories,

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