Auction Hightlights - Is Nothing Sacred?

Is Nothing Sacred?

The Eiffel Tower has to be one of the most recognizable structures of the modern world. But even with its impressive height and stunning craftsmanship, it isn’t modern enough for the 7 million tourists who visit it each year. The tower was in dire need of a more expedient way to get to the top and so an elevator was added in 1983, at the expense of an expanse of wrought-iron steps. This was cut into 24 sections, 2-9 metres tall and some have been auctioned off to buyers like Walt Disney World in Florida.

This year another section of the original staircase was auctioned off by Artcurial Auction House, amongst a fervour of eager bidders on the telephones, and sold to an Asian buyer for more than 10 times the opening bid of €40,000. So popular was this item in the international market, it fetched €523,800 (US$556,000) on closing sale.

Where the Eiffel Tower steps will end up is anybody’s guess, but there’s no guarantee it’ll be the final resting place. Twice now, Marilyn Monroe’s grave marker has come up for auction, which may sound rather macabre, but it needs replacing every 30 years or so from the love it receives from millions of beloved fans who touch the brass plaque each year they visit the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Last year, the winning bid for the marker was $212,500. This year, a duplicate item showed up at a rival auction house on the same day that Julien’s Auctions hosted their Marilyn Monroe Auction (the same auction that sold the Happy Birthday Mr President dress for $4.81M). Starting bid for the grave marker was placed at $50,000.

Long Live The Dodo Bird

What can only be described as a labour of love, the first Dodo skeleton to come to light in more than 100 years is the result of a longtime collector and a 40-year collection of bones belonging to this extinct marvel. Except for a missing piece of the skull, the Dodo is near perfect and sold for £346,300 at Summers Place Auctions.

The Dodo made its home on the peaceful island of Mauritius until 1598 when it was discovered by the Dutch. It is a flightless bird and was easy prey for a number of predators. It became extinct just 70 years or so after its discovery and has become a symbol of what can go wrong when humans interfere with an island ecosystem.

This specimen is extremely rare and one of only 12 existing in the world of museums and artefacts. It is highly unlikely that another composite skeleton will ever come up for auction again, as the Mauritian Government has rightly banned all exports of Dodo bones.

The Ten Commandments

Believed to be the oldest inscription of the Ten Commandments, this incredible artefact likely existed at the entranceway to a Samaritan mosque before it was torn down by the Romans around A.D. 400 to 600 and buried in the rubble. It is not, Heritage Auctions is quick to add, the original tablet but a Judaea marble decalogue from the late Roman-Byzantine era, circa 300-830 CE.

Estimated to be 1,500 years old, it comes with an impressive provenance and was first discovered in 1913 in Israel during the construction of a new railroad. Quite possibly, it was found by one of the workers building the railroad, who placed it in his courtyard and admired it for three decades. Then in 1943, it was bought by an archeologist and remained in his possession for the next 57 years, until the founder of the Living Torah Museum, New York, acquired it. This incredible piece of history sold for $850,000, with the stipulation that the buyer must keep it on display for everyone to enjoy.

A Canadian Masterpiece

Back on home soil and the masterful Group of Seven has done it again and made us proud. A very popular and magnificent Lawren Harris called Mountain Sketch LXIII broke records with a winning bid of $11.21M, making it the most valuable piece of Canadian artwork ever sold at auction. With a conservative estimate set at $700,000, the painting surpassed this number and took the art auction world by complete surprise, despite the earnest predictions of actor and art collector Steve Martin. Curator and promoter of a recent Group of Seven art exhibit, Martin owns three Harris masterpieces himself. The canvas stands at 1.5 metres tall and 1.8 metres wide and is part of the Lawren Harris collection entitled Mountain Forms and is highly representative of this group of artists’ extraordinary contribution to Canadian art.

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