Review and Photos by Z.G. Burnett
KATONAH, N.Y. – Just when we thought there were no more fields left for Martha Stewart to conquer, she triumphed again April 23-24 with her Great American Tag Sale on her own home front. Organized by Kaminski Auctions, the sale began with an exclusive preview on the afternoon of April 22. Kaminski previously presented the Martha Stewart Turkey Hill Farm kitchen for auction in 2020, to much success. Friends, neighbors and celebrity guests were invited to view the offered items and enjoy light refreshments at Stewart’s stables on her farm known as Cantitoe Corners in a hamlet of Bedford, N.Y. The event was filmed for a one-hour ABC special covering the sale, to be aired on May 25.
The sale was advertised in this publication and on Stewart’s social media accounts, the followers of which number in the millions. Tickets were sold on a website dedicated specifically to the sale, beginning at $250 on Saturday morning and reduced to $25 for Sunday afternoon. Tickets sold quickly. Those who purchased tickets to the preview paid $1,000 a piece for the privilege, gaining exclusive access to the sale items and the opportunity to buy particular items early. All proceeds benefited the Martha Stewart Centers for Living, including her most recent location in New York City’s Union Square, in partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital.
Although ticket holders at each level had the opportunity to meet Stewart, those lucky few at the Friday afternoon preview were welcomed with rhubarb spritzes among other mixed drinks, a raw bar hosted by Copps Island Oysters and great interest from Stewart’s Friesian horses, all of whom were hoping for a taste of the hors d’oeuvres from PS Tailored Events. Stewart flew back for the event, having spoken the night before for a crowd of 1,500 at the Dallas Women’s League, including former First Lady Laura Bush.
Shuttled to each location of the event through the domestic doyenne’s 150 acres, attendees were first brought to a large white tent, surrounded by potted plants grown by Stewart herself and lawn furniture of various sizes, intricacy and age. Sale tags reflected the strong afternoon sunlight, which blessed the afternoon with the warmth and easy energy so projected across each acre by the hostess. Offered goods were mostly priced from the low hundreds of dollars with a few items reaching above $5,000, many of which were snapped up within the sale’s first few hours on Saturday.
Tables of carefully arranged items lined the interior of the tent, which in turn flanked rows of even more tables covered with goods for sale. It was a feast for collectors of every level and for those lucky few that were able to secure tickets, an opportunity to own a piece of Martha Stewart history. Each and every object was from Stewart’s own collection, including antique and vintage kitchen and homewares, as well as examples from her eponymous lines sold at Macy’s, on QVC and with many other collaborators. Many of these came from her home in East Hampton, N.Y., which she sold in 2021. Some pewter items were engraved with the names of Stewart’s former and current estates in these locations. Buyers could acquire a souvenir of Turkey Hill in Berlin, Conn., or Stewart’s home in Maine, known as Skylands. As with the lawn furniture, the tent’s inventory was reasonably priced. One of the lowest prices included a contemporary egg cup by Emma Bridgewater for $10, placed near a full Belleek tableware set priced at $750. This quickly sported a red “sold” tag, along with a few of the potted plants and much of the jadeite. The springlike hue of this material attracted early attention to the sale, perhaps due to its feature on Stewart’s personal Instagram account and would prove to be one of the most popular categories of serving ware. Prices ranged from $20 to around $150. The selection was not unlike a department store in itself, with no surface left bare and no category unrepresented.
Beyond the first section in the tent, a table piled high with rugs of every kind, mostly priced in the low hundred dollars, led visitors into rows of furniture. Again, the assembly was eclectic but exemplary, owing to Stewart’s many years of collecting. Items were priced accordingly and without a “provenance tax,” no more and no less than what one would find in a middle-priced antique or consignment shop. Smaller items like side tables were priced around $250, while suites or larger items reached the thousands of dollars. To the far side, a table stacked high with signed copies of Stewart’s books and selections from her own library were available.
One object stood out for a few reasons; much of the furniture was on the rustic side, painted in pale tones with what Martha Stewart Living magazine writers may describe as “simple country elegance.” Nestled between satinwood and scrubbed pine, a round Nineteenth Century mahogany dining table with gated string inlay on its edges was one of the earliest objects offered and perhaps one of the most personal; it had been owned by Stewart’s mother, Martha “Big Martha” Kostyra.
Later during the preview reception in the stables’ courtyard, Stewart addressed her guests after ringing a bell, saying, “Come closer, I don’t want to yell.” She shared that founding her first Center For Living was inspired by her mother, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 93 but not before the center’s opening. “You don’t want to start a hospital after someone dies,” Stewart quipped. She continued, saying that in 2029 there will be more people over the age of 65 alive than ever before, and that this new center is dedicated to aiding seniors to age gracefully by providing holistic health practices and integrative medicine. “It’s about doing good while living good,” Stewart concluded, and that is indeed a good thing.
The collaborators and organizers for the tag sale were then invited to share the spotlight. Albert Siu, MD, joined Stewart’s side with her thanks for representing Mount Sinai Hospital. In addition to Frank Kaminski, Stewart thanked friends and dealers Vincent Manzo of the East Hampton Yard Sale and James Klinko, who owns Furniture on Consignment in Westport, Conn., for their invaluable contribution to the event. Elizabeth Jackson, who owns and operates her namesake Consign It business in Greenwich, Conn., was also acknowledged, along with Vermont antiques dealer Jennifer Pascal, for their contributions in setting up the sale. The party was grinning as guests applauded their efforts, and for good reason. When asked if Kaminski Auctions would be organizing another sale with Stewart, Kaminski replied with a smile, “Maybe, we certainly have enough to work with.” Guests were then invited to survey the barn across the garden, where a select range of the sale was available for early purchase. This segment was conducted by Klinko and his sister, Cindy Samatowski. Most of these were larger objects or sets of multiple chairs, with an extension from the barn that displayed even more tables of smaller goods. Some of these sold immediately, such as individual French pÃ¢tÃ© baking dishes for $145 each, and a charming, hooked rug of a dog for $475. A large antique dovecote sold within minutes, placed beside an ornate wooden birdcage priced at $3,500. Samatowski’s favorite item in the barn was a vintage wine barrel, which was already attracting much attention.
“If there’s anything Martha hates, it’s waste” Klinko said, “She’s a collector, truly one of us.” True to form, by the end of the weekend there were hardly any remainders of Stewart’s “unwanted, fabulous things.”
The official sale began the next morning, with ticket holders lining up in search of their next great find. Stewart created her own fun as well, signing select items as an added treasure hunt for buyers. Seventy percent of the offered items sold within the first day, and more had to be brought out from the barn and other storage buildings on the second day. By Saturday afternoon and Sunday, many buyers returned for more sales, at which time blogger and ticket holder Choire Sicha wrote, “the mood was eager to the point of bloodthirsty.”
At the end of the weekend, 85 to 90 percent of the sale items had sold.
In addition to the excitement from the sale, there were also some A-list celebrity sightings. Actress Blake Lively, who also attended the Friday evening preview, bought kitchenware and kindly took photos with fans. Kris Jenner, matriarch of the Kardashian and Jenner conglomerates, directed her assistant via FaceTime to buy as much jadeite as possible. Given Jenner’s magic touch, a trend of table settings in this material is likely to follow. Television host Jimmy Fallon was also present at the sale, taking home vintage spool beds. Stewart has been a guest on Fallon’s The Tonight Show twice, once with her co-host Snoop Dogg, who was sadly unable to attend the sale. Joy Behar bought an iron scale, cookware and McCoy vases, while her colleague from The View, Sunny Hostin, took home American glazed pottery. Stewart mingled among her guests, enjoying the sale as much as they were, and changed outfits for each new group. Her chow chows Emperor Han and Empress Qin and French bulldogs BÃªte Noire and Crème Brûlée even made an appearance. Just as celebrated as their peers, the dogs were “stars,” according to one attendee.
The Great American Tag Sale raised more than $800,000 dollars in a single weekend, reportedly closer to the $1 million mark by the final tally, a grand success for Kaminski Auctions and another chapter in the long list of the hostess’s achievements. “Martha was so pleased with the results,” Kaminski concluded, “Absolutely elated.” There may yet be more celebrity tag sales in store for Kaminski, but for now, viewers will have to make do with Stewart’s extensive archive of television series and ABC’s coverage of the weekend-long event, premiering on May 25.