For decades, the former household belongings of an old Summit Avenue family — including gilded Rococo figurines, Louis XV occasional tables, European tapestries and Old Master paintings — have been tucked away in the Minnesota Historical Society’s warehouse in St. Paul.
Now this gilded and dusty collection is finally out of storage and ready to star in a July 17 live auction in Chicago.
Potential bidders are inquiring from as far away as Turkey and China.
“There’s a lot of buzz,” Corbin Horn of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers says of the items up for auction from the Minnesota Historical Society’s Mary Griggs Burke collection. “It’s exciting to the antiquarian market because collectors and dealers of antiques like things that have not been sold in many years, that are new and fresh to the market. This collection is interesting because it was put together in the 1930s and it has not traded hands since then. That’s a really long time in terms of the auction market.”
St. Paul native Mary Griggs Burke, who died at her home in Manhattan in 2012 at 96, was known as “the mother of Japanese art in America.” Upon her death, her comprehensive collection of Japanese art — estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars — was divided between the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This collection up for auction, however, tells a different story from her long life.
“These were her mother’s things, from the house she grew up in,” Horn says.
Mary was born in the summer of 1916: World War I was underway; Woodrow Wilson was president; Claude Monet was still painting; F. Scott Fitzgerald, that St. Paul son, was about to return to his studies at Princeton. Mary grew up on Summit Avenue, the…