27 November 2016

Chess Sculpture at Auction

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, we don't see many sculptures. We see plenty of smaller three-dimensional artwork -- for example, The Artist and the Artwork (April 2015; Anton Chotka), Another Capodimonte Figurine (May 2015), and Soviet Propaganda Porcelain (August 2016), during the last two years alone -- but sculptures are more common in the Flickr Friday series, most recently last month in Two More Chess Statue/Sculptures (October 2016).

When I saw the item pictured below, titled 'ANNE CHU : A Chess Player', I was sure it was a sculpture. When I read the description which mentioned 'oil on wood', I wasn't so sure any more. Whatever it is, it sold for US $10.000 after five bids at live auction, making it one of the most expensive items to be featured on 'Top eBay Chess Items'. The starting price of $8.000, followed by four bids at $500 increments, indicated that this was no ordinary auction.

The dsecription said,

ANNE CHU, A Chess Player • Estimate 10,000 - 15,000 USD • 58 by 72 by 50 in.; 147.3 by 182.9 by 127 cm. • oil on wood.

CONDITION REPORT: This work in very good and sound condition overall. All assemblage elements appear to be present and stable. There is evidence of a minor repair to the middle finger and the index finger of the left element, which were re-affixed, only visible upon close inspection.

PROVENANCE: Victoria Miro Gallery, London; Acquired from the above by the present owner • EXHIBITED: London, Victoria Miro Gallery, Anne Chu, May - June 2001.

The details about 'minor repair' convinced me again that the piece was indeed a sculpture. As for the observation of 'no ordinary auction', the seller was Sotheby’s. The company's feedback page says,

Sotheby’s has been a leader in the world of auctions for over 270 years. Now we’re offering the same legendary history, expertise, and property in an immersive environment where the eBay audience can learn about, experience, and buy art.

I couldn't remember seeing Sotheby’s on eBay. The seller's feedback listing was a modest 'sothebys (23); 90.9% positive feedback', with the earliest item going back about 18 months. The relatively low feedback rating seems to be related to shipping costs and communication problems.

Anne Chu, the artist, has a Wikipedia page and died earlier this year: New York Artist Anne Chu Has Died at 57 (artnet.com; 27 July 2016). A Google image search confirms that she was primarily a sculptor.

I've observed often in the past that total eBay listings increase as we enter the year-end holiday season. There were easily another half-dozen auctions I could have featured, but this one was head-and-shoulders above the others.

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