Fine art at a fraction of the cost

March 5, 2009 7:02:06 PM PST
The economy today is a double edged sword. It's forcing people to part with things they hold dear. But it's also providing a buying opportunity for people who still have money to spend. That includes some rare items that belong to the Archdiocese. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Shaw's Jewelry and Loan is not a typical pawn shop. But it's here where people park valuable possessions in exchange for a cash loan. But for months now, the owner has seen customers requesting a different deal.

"They just want to sell it outright because they know they're not going to be able to redeem the loan," said Alex Rodriguez of Shaw's Jewelry.

As a result, the Rolex inventory is growing, as is the selection of diamond jewelry. And yes, it's also selling.

"They know we sell for a lot less then retail, so they come here and buy," said Rodriguez.

From modern jewelry to the world of fine arts, Simpson's auctions sells pieces that have graced wealthy homes.

A high boy was made in New England before the American Revolution.

"Remaining completely intact," said Ray Simpson of Simpson Galleries. "It actually was a survivor of Hurricane Ike. It came out of a home in Galveston."

Important items from the estate of a Texas oil and timber baron are also to be auctioned off this Sunday, along with antiques from the Rectory of Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church in Houston. It's not for economic reasons, the diocese says, but a change of pastors with a different taste in furnishings. The proceeds will be put back into the parish.

Simpsons is also seeing a larger inventory of pieces up for auction, fetching prices about 30 percent less than a few years ago.

"There are people who position themselves for situations like this," said Simpson. "We've seen lots of people coming out of the woodwork to buy these things. Now's a good time to start buying art and antiques."

The prices here are nothing compared to the works found in art museums and as difficult as times may be, Museum of Fine Arts Director Peter Marzio says for those able to invest in art, times are good.

"Recently Art News interviewed me about that and what I told them, I would tell everybody," he said. "Right now, go for a level of quality you never thought possible and buy till it hurts."

The items mentioned from the archdiocese are set to go on auction this weekend. The auction takes place at Simpson Galleries on Skyline Drive this Sunday. The auction starts at 1pm. For more information, visit the Simpson Galleries' website

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