When Deba Gray and Serena Harragin decided to open an auction house back in 2006, they pondered several different locations. They already had an office in upstate New York and a workshop in Florida. Gray had experience with all the major auction houses, including Sotheby’s
, but they knew location was key.
“Part of our business plan was finding an ideal location,” recalls Harragin. “We hit upon Cleveland because the main auction house had closed back in 2000. We thought the market wasn’t being served here in an international caliber.”
So Gray and Harragin returned to Gray’s hometown and opened Gray’s Auctioneers and Appraisers
. “We did a ninja visit, we didn’t even tell Deba’s family,” says Harragin. “Next thing we knew we found this building that was perfect for an auction house. It is one level, has garage doors that let in light and make it easy to bring pieces in and out, has 7,000 square feet of exhibition space, and it has a parking lot.”
Since then, Gray’s Auctioneers has steadily grown in both reputation and company size. “We started off with nothing and in the first six months we doubled,” says Harragin. “And we’ve tripled our growth every year since then. It grew from Deba and myself with one employee to seven employees and two part-time employees.”
By having multiple specialists on staff, Harragin says they are able to act quickly on some coveted items. In November, Gray’s sold Andy Warhol's “Moonwalk” at $120,000, which sold to a local buyer in the audience at Gray’s auction showrooms. Other pieces that have sold at their monthly auctions include Samia Halaby’s “Rainbow Spirals.”
“Every auction is exciting,” says Harragin. “There are so many amazing pieces that show up here.” The auctions range from modern and contemporary to post-war art. Gray’s will soon hold an auction of antique and scientific instruments. “These are pieces that have been lost to time but integral in medical history.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 18, Gray’s will hold an auction of fine art, furniture and decorative art that will include artists such as Emile Auguste Pinchart, Gaston Prunier, Edmond Hottenroth and Pablo Picasso, as well as a diverse collection of antique furniture, jewelry, tribal masks and wood-carved statues.
French artist Auguste Pinchart’s oil on canvas painting “Family Gathering by the Sea Shore,” which features four women of different generations, is a particular standout to Harragin in Wednesday’s auction. When Gray’s first opened, the owner came in for an appraisal. Now it has returned for auction. “It’s so great to see it, to welcome it back,” says Harragin.
Interested bidders can come to the auction in person, reserve a phone line or bid online
. People must register
to place bids online, and all online bids must be made 48 hours prior to the auction.