Art, Heller Ehrman, Money, Shopping

Update: Heller Ehrman Art Auction Exceeds Expectations

Heller Ehrman small logo.jpgAs we previously reported, a sizable portion of the art collection of defunct law firm Heller Ehrman was sold at auction yesterday. The auction took place at Bonhams in San Francisco, before a standing-room-only crowd.

We submitted absentee bids on the following:

  • lot 1, Pale Orange Begonia (we bid $500; it sold for $1,159);
  • lot 2, Glass of Water (we bid $500; it sold for $671);
  • lot 99, Lover of Time (we bid $800; it sold for $1,830);
  • lot 210, Bonsai and Bicycle (we bid $1,000; it sold for $4,575); and
  • lot 290, Return of the Rice Cooker (we bid $2,000; it sold for $5,185).

All of the items we bid on went for well above their high estimates — bad news for us, but good news for Heller creditors. How much dinero did the auction generate in total?

Well over half a million dollars — not bad. The glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly were especially hot items.

Here’s a press release from Bonhams, the auction house charged with disposing of the Heller Ehrman artworks.


Bonhams & Butterfields’ standing-room-only auction today of artworks from the international law offices of Heller Ehrman LLP resulted in stellar results for 340 lots offered — the auction garnered more than $572,000, with nearly all of the sculpture, paintings and photography finding buyers. Top sellers in Monday’s sale include hand-blown glass by Dale Chihuly and oil paintings by artist Michael Gregory.

Heller Ehrman LLP, the 118-year-old international law firm founded and headquartered in San Francisco, closed its doors in September of 2008. The works offered in this sale were collected over many decades and decorated offices and public spaces within the firm’s locations across the globe.

“Today’s sale saw highly competitive bidding,” says Martin Gammon, Director of Business Development at Bonhams & Butterfields, ” with as many as 350 clients old and new registering to participate in the sale from international locations.”

More than $50,000 was paid today for six lots of art glass crafted by the Seattle-based master Dale Chihuly (American, born 1941). Bidding was highly competitive for these fragile and beautiful sculptural glass works, including $14,640 (tripling the estimate) paid for an example from his 1992 “Persian” series and $11,560 paid for a two-piece set titled Radiant Persian Pair, from 2003. Also exceeding its expectation was Chihuly’s glass work Macchia, 1986, which brought $9,150.

Strong interest from collectors, members of the trade and other law firms was seen for several works by the American artist Michael Gregory (born 1955). His landscape Latah, 2002, an oil on panel depicting the façade of a barn under a dark forbidding sky, brought more than ten times its estimate, selling for $17,080. Another painting featuring a dramatic colorful landscape by Gregory, A Lambent Light, 1989, an oil and tar on panel, brought $8,540, also ten times the pre-sale expectation.

A collector paid $13,420 for an acrylic on canvas by Roland Kulla titled Steel, 2004 (est. $2/4,000) while two works in acrylic on plastic panels by the American artist Peter Waite also exceeded estimates. Waite’s six-panel 1990 work Corridor sold for $10,980 and Kew, completed in 1991, also acrylic on a six panels of plastic, tripled its estimate to bring $6,710.

Competitive bidding was seen for several lots of sculpture. A collector paid $14,640 for Composition in Black Spanish Marble No 1 by Gidon Graetz (Swiss, born 1929) while an impressive 40-inch high wood sculpture by the British artist David Nash, titled Rip Cut Stack, brought $12,200 (est. $5/7,000).

Many of the artists represented in the sale had never been featured in a major art auction, establishing auction records likely to increase their appearances on the global fine art auction stage.

The select first installment of art work from the Heller Ehrman collection came to auction in November 2009 at the Bonhams New York salesroom. Strong prices were realized for several Robert Kelly oils from the artist’s 2006 “Assemblage Rouge” series, and prices also exceeded estimates for oils, a bronze, and several works on paper by other artists. The remaining art from the firm’s collection is being offered in a series of upcoming Bonhams sales in the spring of 2010 — including Prints (May 4th), Photographs (May 18th), and the auctioneer’s “Made in California: Contemporary Art” (May 3rd) auctions to be simulcast between the Los Angeles and San Francisco salesrooms.

Prices realized in Monday’s auction will remain online with the illustrated catalog at

Earlier: Heller Ehrman Art To Be Auctioned Off Today
ATL Field Trip: The Heller Ehrman Art Auction
Anatomy of a Dissolution: The Heller Art Auction

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