Bonhams & Butterfields Natural History Auction

. June 12, 2008

Bonhams & Butterfields is pleased to announce the return of Natural History auctions to its San Francisco salesroom on June 22, 2008. Celebrating the tenth anniversary of these ground-breaking auctions and the 20th sale in the expansive collecting category, June’s auction features the work of famed sculptor Albert Jon ‘Zee’ Haag, dinosauria, exotic gems and minerals and meteorites.

rooster.jpgThe Décor section of the auction is highlighted by the Zeta-Azur Collection is composed of mineral art, and furniture, which incorporates and is inspired by natural minerals. Utilizing a vast store of raw gems and minerals amassed by Zee Haag over several decades, Haag and Azur Mele, a student at Rhode Island School of Design, have created numerous unique designs, which serve a variety of interior design purposes, from sculptural focal points to functional pieces of furniture. Kinetic sculptures, tables and tabletops and representational art pieces, produced from natural minerals, fossils and even meteorites, are individually conceived and created, informed by the quirky, individualistic sensibility of this father-daughter team. Named in part for Haag’s teenage daughter who helps to design, the works often incorporate iron oxide-patinated metal work and esoteric iconography. Earthy and ethereal, from first glance, the pieces from the Collection integrate human artistry with nature’s wondrous gifts from the Mineral Kingdom.

“As an artist Haag transcends modern sculpture. He moves beyond standard thought and explores true elegance while utilizing million-year-old natural material in his one-of-a-kind pieces of art and décor,” said Tom Lindgren, Consulting Director of Natural History at Bonhams & Butterfields.

Albert Jon ‘Zee’ Haag is a third-generation gem and mineral dealer. His propensity to buy, sell and collect rocks and minerals was established long before Haag was even born – his maternal grandmother Mary Stepanek and her husband Ludvick opened a gem and mineral venture in Iowa during the 1940s. Soon, their daughter Bernadine and husband Albert followed suit. Albert and Bernadine were intrepid collectors – Albert Sr. often negotiating a rope ladder down hundreds of feet into the blackness of a hand-cut mine shaft – incredibly, often with a sack of dynamite on his back and an open-flame carbide lamp on his head. Albert and Bernadine extracted some of the most beautiful wulfenite the world had ever seen and their collection can still be viewed in the Smithsonian Institutes in Washington, D.C., as well, in numerous other public and private collections worldwide.

The urge to mine, trade, buy and sell unique crystals, fossils and other natural wonders was passed down to Albert and Bernie’s children as well, but none were inspired as much as Zee Haag.

In pursuit of some of the largest and most sought after pieces the world has to offer, Haag has explored diverse locales—from abandoned Mexican mine shafts, the wilds of the African Desert, the back streets of Bangkok and Puffadder, to the salons of Paris, Tokyo and New York—with numerous exotic stops in between. Haag’s collection is, not surprisingly, comprehensive featuring a wide variety of natural wonders excavated from the Earth or dropped from the heavens—in the case of his meteorites. Over the past 30-years, the Haag name has become known throughout the international gem and mineral community as a purveyor of breathtaking world-class crystals, fossils, sculptures, carvings and rough gems. According to the artists, the pieces on offer at Bonhams & Butterfields include some of the most impressive specimens he has had the pleasure of handling over the course of his career.

On offer is a Haag tourmaline and quartz crystal coffee table which could bring as much as $65,000. A custom steel framework has been designed by the artist to incorporate two planes of quartz panels, each containing “gemmy” fuchsia pink rubellite tourmaline cross-section slices from the mines of Zambia, Africa. A three-dimensional quartz crystal specimen unites the planes of this unique table which measures more than five-feet wide and nearly seven-feet long.

A marvelous petrified Sequoia tree on metal stand from North Dakota will also be featured (est. $35/45,000) on June 22nd. The main trunk of the specimen features bark which over the course of millions of years has developed gorgeous tones of neutral grays, ebony and taupes, its central panels of black. Mounted on a custom metal armature and base, the fossilization of petrified wood bark—known as coalification—can be seen leaving the bark in an excellent state of preservation resembling the bark of a living tree. The base is constructed of patinated iron oxide.

Constructed from a coveted local mineral from Bisbee, Arizona rarely used for ornamental purposes is a custom coffee table of Azur-Malachite (est. $22,500/27,500). Its striking blue and green veining, naturally occurring in the brown-toned stone matrix, distinguishes the artistic tabletop, also mounted on a custom steel base.

Pink opal, turquoise and obsidian, along with a fossil ammonite from Madagascar have been used in the creation of an ammonite sculpture. A mosaic of pink opal represents the tentacles of the soft bodied animal which at one time inhabited the shell of the ammonite. On an iron oxide patinated steel base, the work is expected to bring $8,500-10,500 during the auction.

A Haag kinetic sculpture which centers on a Mexican obsidian sphere (est. $12,500/15,000) is expected to attract bids from collectors and connoisseurs alike. A meteorite has been mounted on a steel arm, which revolves around the 19-inch obsidian sphere. The rich black-toned sphere has an unusual gray sheen, which changes depending upon the angle of observation of the viewer. The overall presentation evokes visions of a planetary object with an orbiting moon — and in this case, the moon is comprised of true interstellar material.

Bonhams & Butterfields’ June 3, 2007 sale of Natural History in Los Angeles brought more than $1-million and featured property from the collection of Albert Jon ‘Zee’ Haag described then as one of the most significant private collections of natural wonders to be sold at auction for many decades.

Bonhams & Butterfields’ Natural History auctions are the largest of their kind, both in terms of number of lots offered and overall estimated value. The June 22nd auction celebrates the 10th anniversary of sales in this category and will include nearly 600 lots and features distinctive mineral specimens, gold, lapidary works of art, jewelry and gemstones and an impressive collection of opals highlighted by the famous “Flame Queen” stone [see separate press release at www.bonhams.com/press]. Along with exceptional fossil offerings, numerous well-preserved ancient works of art suitable for display (and for use in décor as wall art and sculpture) will be offered, with estimates ranging from $100 to $100,000.

Preview events are scheduled for June 13-15 in Los Angeles and June 20-22 in San Francisco. The illustrated catalogue is available online for review at www.bonhams.com/us.

Category: Auction News

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