A Question of Value
Stories from the Life of an Auctioneer
by Robert Brunk
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Pub Date 13 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 23 Jan 2024
In the late 1970s, Robert Brunk discovered the world of auctioneering. Drawn to the unique mountain culture and the history of fine art in and around Asheville, North Carolina, Bob started a business, Brunk Auctions, that became part of a bustling network of commerce. America's passion for collecting, buying, and selling reached remarkable heights in the following decades. Auction houses and antiques stores thrived; people paid hundreds of dollars for a humble country basket and thousands for a rare piece of folk art.
In this collection of compelling, compassionate essays, Bob considers specific items and remarkable situations he encountered in his long and successful work as an auctioneer and appraiser. He presents objects as invitations to consider personal and collective histories often related to unresolved social inequities. Bob also describes how, as his business grew to offer the finest examples of American and European art, his career often conflicted with his Mennonite background and the complexities of ownership and value. The result is a portrait that reflects the best and worst of us as we search for ways to live with objects—and then decide what to do when it’s time to let them go.
Robert Brunk’s writing has been widely published and listed as Notable in Best American Essays. He is the founder of Brunk Auctions in Asheville, NC.
"Bob Brunk's essays, like the auction business he chronicles, bring fresh life to old artifacts. In fact, his reminiscences made me see objects anew: as the guardians of secrets and stories. This is a book for the unconscious collector in each of us."—Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian and The Shadow Land
"I trusted Mr. Brunk from the first sentence to the last. Kind, compassionate, and willing to preserve his own moments of human failure, he doesn't make himself the center of the book—an extremely rare and valuable trait in a book of personal essays."—Marjorie Sandor, author of The Late Interiors: A Life under Construction