My mom had a liking for Asian Art. The pieces pictured in this blog post hung in her living room for more than 30 years until her passing. And I have enjoyed them another 15 years since that time. For whatever reason, I never thought to get her to describe the history of what she was told by the art dealer who sold them. My sister seems to recall mom told her they were Japanese.

Fast forward to today where I have been volunteering my photography services to Winning Futures, named 2013 Crain’s Best-Managed Nonprofit. The organization provides high school students with leadership and life skills strategic planning through hands-on mentorship.

Historically, WF hosts its annual fundraiser in February, called Corks and Forks. For 2019 it was held at the elegant Townsend Hotel, Birmingham where high end items are live auctioned by Les Gold, well known for his pawn store, American Jewelry & Loan and TV series Hardcore Pawn.

I was introduced to Winning Futures through a board member, Linda Reinhart, who was highly influential in my life. She passed suddenly a couple of years ago due to cancer and in her name I donated the art pieces for the live auction.

The issue came up as to what I thought the pieces were worth or how much they were originally sold for to my mom. I had no clue.

On the back of both pieces (below) was an art dealer’s sticker, name and location. A quick Google search showed the business closed in 1943. That meant the pieces were at least 75 years old.

My next stop was to the auction house, Dumouchelles. There I was told:

  • The artwork was 19th Century Chinese restored
  • Hand carved ivory
  • They are room dividers
  • As to price, they are not rare; whatever we could get for them was the market rate

Big surprise. They were not wall art, rather room dividers (almost 4 feet tall). The art dealer had papered over one side and inserted a wire hanger. The stands which would have supported each piece were long gone.

I took high resolution photos of each for the slideshow at the live auction. It was about the 5th item on the list. I held my breath, hoping Les would get a good price. He started low, $100 for both. After a brief flurry of bids, they sold for $1000.

My mom and Linda would have been very happy to know the artwork was helping students get goal setting and training – that would last a lifetime.