Today I will start a new recurring blog topic called Finders Keepers, where I proudly display / blog / brag about vintage thrift store and garage / estate sale finds that I’m unwilling to part with unless the price is right 😉
As my “About” page says, I sold a painting in May of this year for A LOT of money. When I was single and broke as a joke, about five years ago, I bought a painting for $12 at a family neighbor’s, Jane Breed’s, estate sale. She had recently passed of cancer. Jane was awesome, cultured, classy, and had FANTASTIC taste. I remember the first time going into her eclectic house that looked way more NYC than West Texas, and thought, WOW! This is how I want to live, this is what I want my home to be like. She’s one of the only adults I’ve encountered since college that I truly admired. Well needless to say I bought tons of stuff at her estate sale (some of which will be featured in future Finders Keepers) including a tiny watercolor for only $12 because it matched my couch. It had an appraisal label on the back but I never found out any info on it and I couldn’t make out the signature. Finally, five years later, last January I started hunting abstract painters on Wikipedia and got to the Abstract Expressionism page, which had noted artists listed on the bottom. The last one was Zao Wou-Ki. My painting’s signature looked like Chinese so I went to his page and then google image searched his signature. HOLY SHIT!!!! A match!! I had an original watercolor by Zao Wou-Ki, a contemporary and cohort of Paul Klee and one if the most famous living Chinese artists!!! His record sale for a painting was $5.8 MILLION!! I started freaking out having an Antiques Roadshow moment at home, ALONE, at 12am. My husband was in Antarctica at the time so I couldn’t call him and my mom lives in the UK and was surely asleep so I couldn’t call her. Torture!! I also couldn’t tell anyone I knew for fear of jinxing it, me being wrong, or word getting out and me being robbed. I contacted Christie’s auction house in NYC. They contacted me back nearly immediately and were AWESOME. I quickly consigned the painting for their spring Hong Kong auction on May 29th. The auction estimate was $11,000 to $13,000 but it sold for $62,000!! I now have a brand new Mazda 3 and enough money for nursing school plus some left over. Truly a miracle, thank you, Jane!! Here’s the copy from the Christie’s catalog, I had it framed. The painting was tiny too, only about 5×7 inches in the matting.
Next is a very large Dutch impressionist harbor scene attributed to Gustaaf Frederik Van de Wall Perne. I bought this stunning painting for a paltry $30 at a tiny shop on South Congress at First Thursday, a monthly shopping bonanza on South Congress. My friend who was with me agreed I was probably the only person to buy a massive antique painting at First Thursday instead of trendy hipster crap. The painting is in a stunning modernly art nouveau gilt frame with real gold leaf on the interior. How could I NOT buy this stunner for $30??? It now lives in my dining room.
The next painting was purchased at a Goodwill in Austin for a whopping $20. I bought it because it matched the new custom teal leather couch we had ordered, plus it’s GORGEOUS! There was an old price tag on the back from the gallery that originally sold it in El Paso in the 1960s for $250, pretty pricy for 40 years ago. Turns out the painting is by listed artist and author Jan (Janet) Herring. There’s even a street named after her in El Paso. I contacted a gallery in El Paso who was willing to broker a sale for $2500 but I decided to keep it for the time being. It’s very large, about three feet long.
The final painting featured in today’s blog was purchased at a Salvation Army store last month for $15. I nearly passed it up because it was so big and expensive (I said last time I was cheap) but I decided to look up the signature at the last minute. The painting is by well known Texas artist Ella K. Mewhinney!! Her watercolors routinely sell for upwards if $1000 and her oils for even more (damn, I wish this were an oil!). Needless to say, I bought it. It’s also the largest watercolor I’ve ever seen, measuring 16×22 inches NOT including the frame and matting. It’s currently hanging in the living room and is so pretty I’ll probably keep it. Plus it looks fab with the teal leather couch.