I've only ever been to one auction in my life and while it peaked for me at one point, it didn't end well. It was back in 2004 when I was living in Hardie Street, Darlinghurst.
Actor Max Cullen and his wife, Margarita Georgiadis, were moving to Gunning in rural NSW and had decided to auction a stack of artworks they had both created but didn't want to take with them. The auction was at the Arthouse Hotel in the Sydney CBD and everyone was in good spirits.
I was with my then boyfriend and we had recently returned from a romantic weekend by the Fish River, outside Bathurst in central west NSW, so when a small square canvas by Cullen, featuring a painting of a rock in the same river came up for auction, I just had to bid on it.
Bidding was quite an adrenalin filled experience for me; I felt a bit out of control and although I only wanted to pay a couple of hundred bucks for the piece, I imagine that if the price had kept going up I would have kept bidding. Luckily the bidding didn't get too out of hand, because I won.
And when I did, I think I screamed out loud. I definitely became excited because as soon as I won I ran over to Cullen in excitement and spoke to him animatedly for a couple of minutes before returning to my table and discovering that someone had stolen my handbag.
Inside my handbag was my driver's licence, purse and house-keys. I immediately freaked out and imagined the thief was going to zip over to my apartment and rob the joint. I can't remember how I paid for the artwork.
I then rushed home in a taxi (don't know who paid for that either), called a locksmith and sat by my door for about 30 minutes until my neighbour arrived home and invited me into his place to wait, where we then went through a couple of bottles of wine.
When the locksmith finally arrived I was a little unsteady on my feet. I don't know who paid for the locksmith, but about five minutes after he left, my buzzer rang and when I opened the front security door there was a police officer standing there with my handbag. The money was gone but my house-keys were still inside.
So I always figured me and auctions were not a good idea, even apart from the danger of out of control bidding. But when my friend, Alexandra Apache, emailed me a link to the Shapiro website, which featured photographs of their upcoming Fine Jewellery and Vintage Couture auction, I thought it was time to break the curse and on Sunday we scooted off to the auction house in nearby Woollahra for the 2.30pm clearance.
There were 293 lots being auctioned, which included Givenchy brooches (estimate: $100-$150), Yves Saint Laurent earrings ($80-$120), Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Gucci handbags (estimates ranged from $200-$1200), as well as dresses and other clothing by designers such as Christian Dior (one dress sold for $160) Giorgio Armani, Emilio Pucci, Hermes, Missoni and Gianni Versace.
There were also around 50 lots "from the stage wardrobe collection of INXS lead guitarist Tim Farris", which included some pretty wacky pieces, such as 1980s style pirate shirts and brightly coloured over-sized suits.
Auctioneer Andrew Shapiro charged through the lots in less than three hours, with only a handful of lots being passed in.
If I had done my research and attended one of two viewings held before the auction, in which I could have tried on some of the clothes, I would have been more willing to part with my money, especially considering some of the items sold below their estimate or for fairly reasonable amounts. A circa 1920s beaded dress (above) with a black and silver floral design and scalloped hem was estimated to go under the hammer for between $1200 to $1800, but sold for $1300.
The costume jewellery also went for fairly low sums, although bidding did get heady for the pink enamel Chanel necklace (above left) which was estimated to sell for $200-$300 but went under the hammer for $850. The Chanel choker (above centre) was made from faux pearls and had an estimate of $400-$600 and sold for $650.
I only placed one bid - unsuccessfully - for a pink Balenciaga handbag (estimate: $150-$250), which ended up selling for $140. But if I had gone to an earlier viewing I would have definitely tried on this amazing Louis Vuitton couture dress:
The hand stitching and embroidery was just incredible; I really appreciate that kind of craftsmanship in clothing and I would have loved to mooch around in this particular frock. The dress, described in the auction notes as a "cream silk Empire-line gown, hand-painted floral silk skirt with silk tulle overlay, hook and eye fastening to back with Empire-line tie'', originally sold for $14,000 when it was purchased new from the LV store in Hong Kong in 2005.
But at this auction it was estimated to sell for $1500-$2000. And it went for one tenth of its original price, selling to a phone bidder for $1400. It would have made a wonderful wedding dress for someone.
Other apparent bargains included Hermes Birkin bags, which are a bit of cult collector's item. There were three in the auction, in gold, white and "Blue Jean", which were estimated to sell for $8000-$12,000, and went under the hammer for $7000, $5000 and $6600 respectively.
But we didn't leave empty-handed; my friend Alexandra got into the spirit of things, bidding away her earnings on a Fendi black corduroy Baguette bag ($150) as well as a Yves Saint Laurent gold tone C-scroll bracelet ($180) and a Salvatore Ferragamo gold tone necklace with lock clasp ($100).
With the buyer's premium of 20 per cent, the whole treasure trove (above) cost her just over $500. A tidy sum that she wasn't planning on telling her mother about.
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Woollahra NSW 2025
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