Minnesota’s First Fine Art Auction House Finds an Eager Market

Marc Chagall, Bella, lithograph

Five years ago, Robert Snell opened Hiro Fine Art Gallery in International Market Square. The gallery focused on work by historic Minnesota artists—championing such luminaries as Alexis Fournier, George Morrison, and Cameron Booth. Snell also represented many Twin Cities’ collectors. Over time, he found himself handling more clients and even auctioning their art holdings, which included works from ancient to modern and from countries around the world. He also began to recognize an opportunity.

Snell decided to team up with Sean Blanchet, owner of Blanchet Asian Art, to create Minnesota’s first fine-art auction house: Revere Auctions. Snell and Blanchet believe that a premier auction house in-state fills a much-needed market gap in Minnesota, which they see as a national center of fine art museums, collectors, and collections—and as an area long overlooked by major auction houses. Their venture, they say, promises to further shape the collecting, cultivating, and connoisseurship of fine arts in the Upper Midwest.

The numbers bear out their aspirations. An auction of Asian art in March brought in more than $400,000 in sales—double the estimate. Moreover, a print by Jasper Johns, “Figure Seven,” sold for $28,160, breaking the record for the same print sold by Christie’s in October. “There are wonderful collections and collectors, and corporations with incredible collections, here in Minnesota,” Snell says, “but many have gone out of town to sell their nicer works. Based on our results, we’re competitive. We can do better than large auction houses in New York and California. There certainly is enough product here. We’re in a great position to help people who want to sell items in their collections.”

Revere Auctions also gives back to the community, donating a portion of auction proceeds to local art organizations. Snell and Blanchet have donated to Mia’s acquisition fund for work by local artists and to the Minnesota Historical Society’s acquisition fund. “We have world-class artists and institutions here,” Snell says. “We want to help build that.”

Maria Martinez, blackware bowl

The next auction, on Saturday, June 23rd, starting at 10 a.m., includes modern work by Native American artists, Southwestern pottery, a Marc Chagall lithograph, a Gustav Stickley umbrella stand, and an oil painting by Knute Heldner. “A French Bombay chest from a Minnesota estate sold by Christie’s in the 1980s, which has been off the market for decades, showed up back in Minnesota and is also part of the sale,” Snell says.

19th-century Louis XV Bombe Chest

The gallery will be open for a preview on June 18th through the
22nd, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Knute Heldner, autumn landscape, oil on canvas

 

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