Susan Kime may be the ultimate St. Louis insider. A fine art expert and trusted appraiser, Kime has been privy to our city’s most important estates and collections of fine art, antiques and collectibles for two decades. Most recently, Kime helped launch Link Auction Galleries, which builds on the longstanding St. Louis auction house tradition started in 1830 by Ben J. Selkirk and Sons. We recently caught up Kime to learn out more about Link and the importance of the St. Louis market as a resource for local, national and international buyers.
How did Link Auction Galleries come to be?
To tell the story of Link, I need to start with Bruce Selkirk. I began working for him in 1994 and have worked in the auction industry in St. Louis ever since. Bruce’s company changed ownership several times, and I was among a core group of appraisers who stayed together through all of the changes. In the winter of 2013, the company’s ﬁnancial difﬁculties became apparent to us. Our group realized that we couldn't continue to accept property, but none of us wanted to leave behind the business and the people we had come to know and love. At ﬁrst, the idea of starting our own auction house was nothing more than a pleasant “what if?” But then we started talking more seriously, whispers became formal business plans, we found the perfect space – and suddenly, we had formed our own business: Link Auction Galleries.
Where is Link located?
We’re located in the former St. John’s United Methodist Church in the Central West End, at the corner of Washington Place and Kingshighway Boulevard, known to locals as the “holy corners.” The building, a 1902 Greek Revival-style landmark on the National Registry of Historic Places, was designed by Theodore Link, hence the name.
What have you learned about the St. Louis market that might surprise readers?
In my years in the auction business, I’ve been routinely impressed by the variety to be found in the St. Louis market. St. Louis collectors are extremely diverse, and this makes my job interesting. My colleagues and I have worked with collections of Old Master paintings and drawings, rare 18th-century English porcelain, Aboriginal art, 1980s East Village art, Mid-Century Modern furniture and decorative art, modern Inuit art, Americana, modern Irish paintings, Chinese bronzes and Japanese prints, just to name a few.
How does St. Louis compare to other markets in terms of important collections and estates?
There’s a reason there are so many auction houses and representatives from national ﬁrms in St. Louis: We have great property. In my role with Antiques Roadshow, I’ve visited cities across the country, and we rank highly in terms of the quality of connoisseurship and collections.
Antiques dealers say it’s harder and harder to ﬁnd quality antiques in Europe because it’s been “over shopped.” Is this also happening in St. Louis?
I feel the opposite is true here in St. Louis. There’s great property here and at a time when many people are downsizing. I’m constantly amazed at the important collections that I encounter. It doesn’t seem it will be drying up anytime soon.
What are some of your most notable sales?
In our ﬁrst year, we set numerous auction records for paintings by regional artists. The cover lot from our ﬁrst auction, a painting by Joseph Vorst, and two other works by Vorst in the same auction are currently the top three auction prices for this artist. We were fortunate to handle property from the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in April. This consisted of paintings executed in the 1950s and ‘60s by St. Louisans and other notable American artists. Many of the works from this collection set auction records, and have raised the bar for some familiar St. Louis artists like William Fett, Fred Conway and Stanley Tasker.
In 2007, I worked on a painting by the American artist Frederic Church, titled “The Mill.” It was executed in 1852, and depicts an old mill house in the Catskills. My colleagues and I sold this painting at auction to a buyer in New York for $2.3 million. It came from a St. Louis collection. When Link ﬁrst opened, I handled a private sale of an important painting by Maxﬁeld Parrish, again from a St. Louis collection to a man in Springﬁeld, Ill. We sold this painting for $150,000.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t ask about your work on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow. What can you tell us about that experience?
I’ve been working as an appraiser for PBS’ Antiques Roadshow for ﬁve years, and have 10 cities under my belt. These appraisal events are intense, sometimes 14-hour days of nonstop appraising, and the experience I have gained is immeasurable. I’ve gotten to know leading experts in all categories from across the country, and I often call or email them with questions about property I am researching. The immediate access to experts for some really obscure objects has been hugely beneﬁcial to me.
Do you know when Antiques Roadshow will be returning to St. Louis?
As a rule, they will not return to a city for ﬁve years, so St. Louis is due for a repeat. The cities they select are kept secret until they are announced to the public, and this will be early next year. I’m already planning the party at Link, if and when the day comes.
Upcoming events at Link Auction Galleries
Bazaar: August 28 at 10 a.m. (Preview: August 26 & 27)
Autumn Gallery: September 19 at 10 a.m. (Preview: September 13 - 18)
Bazaar Auction and Toys and Collectibles: October 8 & 9 at 10 a.m. (Preview: October 6 & 7)
Musical Instruments: November 2 at 10 a.m. (Preview: October 26 - November 1)
Modernism: November 14 at 10 a.m. (Preview: November 8 - 13)
Winter Gallery: December 5 at 10 a.m. (Preview: November 29 - December 4)
Bazaar: December 16 at 10 a.m. (Preview: December 14 & 15)