Last year, Sean Blanchet and Robert Snell met at the Minnesota Antiques Dealers Association’s Antiques and Decorative Arts Show. This year, they came back, young kids in tow, and set up a huge booth together under the name Revere Auctions. They brought some contemporary paintings to show, but those paintings were just part of the wide variety of items on display—and with this duo, their expertise diversity is something they want to emphasize. Blanchet specializes in Chinese and Japanese art (and conveniently has a background in business administration) and Snell focuses on American and European art and appraisals, so when you put the two of them together, that’s why you can get highly curated arts auctions like their first fine arts auction in March, their Asian art auction in May, and now, on June 23, their Fine Native American and Decorative Arts Auction.
Revere Auctions began in December 2017, and the duo has already pounded out a steady momentum: They are the first fine arts auction house in Minnesota, and with their Asian art auction, they became the first U.S.-based auction house to accept Bitcoin. In their inaugural auction, they achieved domestic and world record prices, and in their Asian art auction, the final sales totaled $412,713, nearly doubled the high estimate, $211,660.
“The bigger auction houses, there wasn’t one between Chicago and Seattle essentially until us,” Snell says. “And the other thing is, we have world-class museums here. Minnesota as a whole is incredibly cultured. … I’ve done a lot of appraisals, and a lot of the stuff will get sent out to the coasts, and you know, I’m from here, so it obviously holds a special place in my heart, so I’d like to see the objects stay here, too.”
Revere Auctions is hoping that, whether they are able to stay in their International Market Square space or not—they’re growing a bit large for it, and it was a hail mary temporary contract to begin with—they will be able to find a place to put down roots for a while. They have started to connect with the local art and collectors communities, and they are working to support the arts by donating a portion of the auction proceeds to local art organizations like the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Minnesota Historical Society’s art acquisition fund.
“We know we have some limitations based on where we’re located geographically, but we want all the people in the world to know about the items coming up for sale in our auctions,” Snell says. “We want to really use technology to our advantage.” Hence the online bidding platforms, the digital outreach, and more.
Of the 200-plus lots at the June auction, one of the featured items is a blackware ceramic by Native American potter Maria Martinez; it won first place at the New Mexico State Fair in 1964 (and it has the ribbon to prove it). Snell and Blanchet found it from Northwest Minnesota from a collection. Another Minnesota find might find a special place in local hearts, too: a chair by John Scott Bradstreet, who among other things, co-founded the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts which would create the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, founded the Minneapolis Crafthouse, and influenced the Arts and Crafts movement. He was also one of the interior designers for Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, so you might find some not-so-coincidental similarities between the chairs’ feet.
All of the history, of the piece, its maker, its past owners, is what Snell and Blanchet love about their profession. They’ll get so excited about the history of the piece, the story behind it and its maker—even of its past owners. “I’ll go on and on about how cool a piece is, and then my friends will ask, ‘Well how much is it?’ and I’ll say, ‘Like $30, $40,” Blanchet laughs.
Their auctions try to reflect a large price range, too. You’ll hear about the record-breaking, thousands-of-dollar sales the most, but each auction has more affordable and accessible lots that can be as low as $50.
To see the lots before the auction begins Saturday, visit Revere Auctions in International Market Square. The gallery is lined wall-to-wall with framed art, and other work lines tables and shelves. In one room is the 19th-century Louis XV Bombe Chest which a silver serving set atop it. In another corner of the gallery is a display case with Navajo jewelry and pieces of pottery by the likes of Victor Ortiz. It’s a lot to peruse, but that’s what makes it so wonderful.
“The preview is like a museum where you can touch things,” Blanchet says. “We have some things that are very much museum quality, are you’re allowed to come in and put them on the table and touch them, turn them over, try them on. That’s what I love about auctions; you learn so much even if you don’t buy anything.”
Catch the Native American and Decorative Arts Auction on June 23 starting at 10 a.m. in person at their suite in International Market Square (No. 524) or check out the preview every day this week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.