With Works From Blue-Chip Collectors, These New Jersey Auctioneers Are About to Stage Their Biggest Sale Yet

Next week, the auction house Millea Bros. kicks off its November Select auction, featuring works attributed to Giacometti, Matisse, and Manet.

Mark and Michael Millea. Courtesy of Millea Bros.

Mark and Michael Millea, the two brothers behind the New Jersey-based auction house and appraisal company Millea Bros., tend to agree on most things. In conversation, they literally finish each other’s sentences.

They had different opinions, however, on the direction for their latest sale, the November Select auction, which goes live next week. It’s one of the company’s biggest fine-art sales yet, with a collection of works from the estate of Eugene Thaw, a major collector and dealer who died earlier this year at age 90.

The collection includes works attributed to Giacometti, Matisse, and Manet, among other notable names. Given the value of works by these artists and their provenance from a big-name collector, Mark was unsure if the company was losing out on higher prices by forgoing traditional authentication channels, a lengthy process that a larger house would seek out. Michael disagreed. They’d always done things their own way, and now was no different.

Mark and Michael Millea as children. Courtesy of Millea Bros.

Mark and Michael Millea grew up in New Jersey, just outside of New York City. After college, in the late 1990s, they both pursued painting. They convinced a family friend who owned a business to let them section off a corner of his warehouse and set up a shared a studio. Eventually, though, they settled in to other jobs in New York. Mark got his start working for galleries in SoHo and Chelsea. Michael worked for an auctioneer, and eventually brought his brother on to join him at the small company.

In 2003, the owners retired, and the Millea brothers decided to take what they had learned and start their own business.

“We had come from a culture where it was an auction every month no matter what you had, Michael Millea tells artnet News. “We wanted to do something that was more like an event. So we started saving property in the name of only having auctions with objects that we thought belonged together—good, curated collections, with our own marketing spin to it.”

Henri Matisse, Two Young Women (Blue Window) (1947). Courtesy of Millea Bros.

The company stages two major live sales every year. The number of lots for each is large—there are more than 1,000 objects in the November Select auction, for instance—but the selection comprises the best material the brothers have secured to that point. The objects that don’t make the cut for the semi-annual live sales are sold online, in the company’s “ABC” (attic/basement/closet) auctions, which occur eight or nine times a year.

The Milleas describe themselves as generalists. They secure valuable objects from estates and consigners—paintings, antiques, jewelry, books—then auction them off. Prior to the sale, the company appraises the objects, catalogues them, then photographs each a number of times, providing potential buyers with as much information as possible, short of authentication.

Edouard Manet (attrib.), Ladies in the Park (date unknown). Courtesy of Millea Bros.

The Milleas’ three-day November Select auction opens next Thursday, November 15. In addition to the Thaw estate highlights, it includes works from the estates of famed fashion designer Arnold Scaasi, Beverly Hills Hotel heiress Seema Boesky, and music producer and gallerist Earl McGrath. The first day will be dedicated to Asian art and American and English antiques, the second day will feature modern and contemporary art and design, and the third day will offer French and Continental antiques.

Indeed, it’s a wide-ranging sale with a little bit of something for everyone—a balance upon which the brothers pride themselves—and that includes a range of price points. “I do want people to be able to buy and get excited,” says Michael.  Plus, buyers are more likely to return if they get a good deal. “We’re running an auction. That’s what we do. We’ll continue to trust the process.”

Diego Giacometti, Chat maitre-d’hotel (c. 1967). Courtesy of Millea Bros.

And why not? The process has gotten them this far.

“In a way, we’ve both been very selfish in all of this,” Michael jokes. “We’ve only done things that we like to do, generally.”

View the catalogue for the Millea Bros. November Select here. Previews begin Tuesday and run through Saturday November 17.

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