Brunk Auctions in the Community | November 28, 2023
November was a busy month for Brunk Auctions furniture and decorative arts specialist Polly Rolman-Smith, who attended conferences in Williamsburg, Virginia and Louisville, Kentucky, in addition to a visit to the North Carolina Governor’s Mansion for an appearance in a special program on the mansion’s dining room chandelier—an impressive object with a very compelling history.
Rolman-Smith examining the North Carolina Executive Mansion Chandelier
“I Made This…”: Black Artists and Artisans Conference, Colonial Williamsburg
Rolman-Smith and Brunk specialist Franklin Gunnells attended an incredibly informative conference at Colonial Williamsburg in conjunction with a new exhibition entitled “I made this…”: The Work of Black American Artists and Artisans. The exhibition title came from an inscription on a clay pot by 19th century Edgefield, South Carolina enslaved potter David Drake, whose written word inscriptions defied laws prohibiting literacy for enslaved people and served as a tangible act of resistance that viewers can see today in this important exhibition.
“I made this…”: The Work of Black American Artists and Artisans, The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
The conference featured thought-provoking panel discussions on the development of the exhibition, Black material culture in the building of America, and specific Black artists and artisans including free North Carolina cabinetmaker Thomas Day, enslaved Virginia cabinetmaker John Heming, maker of Thomas Jefferson’s Campeche chair, and the potters of Edgefield, South Carolina. The conference included a dinner with author and culinary historian Michael Twitty, who curated a delicious menu inspired by Black Southern foodways and gave an insightful keynote on the African influence that is deeply ingrained within American Southern cuisine.
Thomas Day chair in the exhibition and dinner with culinary historian and keynote speaker Michael Twitty
Following the conference in Williamsburg, Rolman-Smith traveled to Louisville, Kentucky for the Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC). Brunk Auctions has been entrusted by several museums, including the aforementioned Colonial Williamsburg, The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and many others to sell deaccessioned and non-accessioned items across collecting categories. Brunk Auctions is also committed to placing items within museum collections and works closely with museum curators to facilitate new acquisitions. Several Brunk staff members, including Rolman-Smith and Vice President Lauren Brunk, head of museum services, have extensive career experience in museums and are dedicated to helping museums with deaccessions, purchases, and consultation. SEMC is a major networking event for museums in our region and is an excellent annual opportunity for Brunk Auctions to meet museum staff and to spread the word about its commitment to museum service.
Conference views at SEMC in Louisville and Brunk Auctions in the SEMC program
The conference also included visits to the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum, the Derby Museum at Churchill Downs, and The Speed Art Museum, where stunning works by Sam Gilliam, Amy Sherald, and Kentucky decorative arts are on display.
Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum and the Derby Museum at Churchill Downs
Carousell Form II, 1969, Sam Gilliam; Portrait of Breonna Taylor, 2020, Amy Sherald; and Kentucky sugar chests at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky
After a brief return to Asheville for Brunk’s November Premier and Emporium Auctions, Rolman-Smith made a trip over to Raleigh to visit the North Carolina Executive Mansion to advise on a chandelier in the mansion’s dining room.
North Carolina Executive Mansion and dining room chandelier
On December 12, 2023, the Executive Mansion is hosting a special event in light of recent research on the mansion’s late 19th century Austrian crystal chandelier, which was donated to the state of North Carolina by Mrs. H.P. Horowitz in 1967 and installed in the dining room in 1978. The Maria Theresa-style chandelier was originally in the German home of Mrs. Horowitz’s Jewish parents, who perished at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. After escaping Germany with her husband and young son and eventually moving to Asheville, North Carolina, Mrs. Horowitz returned to Germany after the war and was able to purchase the few surviving items from her family home, including the chandelier. Governor Roy Cooper’s staff established contact with Mrs. Horowitz’s living son, Bob Horowitz, and invited him to the Governor’s Mansion for a telling of the chandelier’s riveting story.
Polly Rolman-Smith had the opportunity to visit the Executive Mansion and was filmed examining the chandelier and discussed the decorative and stylistic history of Austrian crystal chandeliers for the program. Brunk Auctions is thrilled to take part in this extraordinary event for the state of North Carolina.
Brunk Auctions is always seeking ways to engage with new audiences. Conferences and educational events like those mentioned above are not just ways to make new community connections, but are also learning opportunities for our staff to continue to expand their breadth of knowledge and specializations across collecting areas.
Sadie, Official Executive Mansion Grounds Dog