Freeman’s, the venerable Chestnut Street auction house, is throwing a party for young Philadelphians on Friday night, offering free booze and snacks as a prelude to auctioning off some intriguing modern art and collectibles next week.
Most lots are priced to millennial perfection, from $50 to $6,000, with the bulk of items under $1,000.
Are you inspired by Al Hirschfeld sketches or modernist furniture by noted architects and designers Eero Saarinen and Florence Knoll? Perhaps Chinese jade and jadeite vases call out to your studio-sized mantel, and “wishbone” chairs by Hans Wegner belong in your dining room.
Or are you just sick of buying faux antique silver bowls at West Elm?
“The Collector’s Sale is perfect for young buyers and millennials, especially those looking to furnish their apartment or house on a budget,” said Andrew Taggart, the Freeman’s specialist in charge of the auction. “The majority fits within mid-century modern and 20th-century design,” while the art and furnishings “have a bold, colorful, and playful aesthetic.”
Freeman’s auction is offering 401 lots, covering much of the globe: Korean, Japanese, Chinese, European, American, and Middle Eastern pieces are all represented. The styles cover traditional, mid-century modern, art deco, Victorian, and French provincial, among others.
The most expensive item is expected to be a William and Mary maple secretary, 18th century with 20th-century additions, at an estimated $4,000 to $6,000.
But other more budget-friendly choices abound, ranging from five Eames chairs to a Renoir print, to a five-piece silver tea set that cries out for some floral Darjeeling.
The exhibition opens with the preview party Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., to coincide with First Friday in Center City, at Freeman’s on 1808 Chestnut St. The party — and the auction — are open to the public.
The public can browse the auction goods at Freeman’s for the rest of the weekend and next week, starting on Aug. 5 and 6 from noon to 5 p.m.; and on Aug. 7 and 8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Or you can preview by appointment only on the morning of the auction, which starts on Wednesday, Aug. 9, at 10 a.m. You can also bid online.
Freeman’s first millennial-style auction is just one way the 212-year-old auction house is reinventing itself. In 2016, the family that founded the Philadelphia institution in 1805 sold a controlling stake to the industry veterans on its management team.
Midsize auction houses with broad specializations such as Freeman’s can no longer rely on a regional market and have to find clients around the world.
The auction house wants Philly’s young peeps to embrace investing in lower-priced but well-known designers at auction, instead of buying disposable fakes, replicas, and retro-copies, particularly off the web.
Freeman’s auction will include more than 100 Asian arts items, silver serving trays, and 30 Hirschfeld works, including drawings of the cast of Friends, jazz-age dancer Josephine Baker, Ringo Starr, Bette Davis, and Clint Eastwood.
Nearly 100 items will be offered from the Asian arts department, including a massive Chinese celadon jade mountain, and a variety of Chinese porcelain, hardstone, and jadeite vases.
Freeman’s also hopes millennials will acclimate to buying “unique piece of furniture or décor, imbued with history and timeless style for not much more — and in many cases, less — than the cost of an item from the ubiquitous Scandinavian flat-packed home store,” the auction house said.
Ahem — Scandinavian flat-pack means Ikea, you proto-snobs.
What’s the strategy for Freeman’s? They hope millennials will buy there in their 20s and 30s, realize collectibles and art are a decent investment, and spend even bigger once they hit their 40s and 50s.
Art can be a good investment. And did we mention there’s free booze?
To take a look at the full catalog, visit Freeman’s website (freemansauction.com) and look for the “The Collector’s Sale.” You can also contact Andrew Taggart via email at email@example.com.