The thrill of the hunt is what brothers Evan, Graydon, and Will Sikes agree is their favorite part of owning Caza Sikes Gallery in Oakley with their father, Reid. The business is a combination of fine art gallery, auction house, appraisal firm, and art consultation service.
Graydon recalls one particular recent “hunt” that stands out. A law firm contacted Caza Sikes last year to say a client had passed away and, as executors of the estate, they were clearing out the house in order to sell it, with a dumpster arriving the next day. Before that, they asked, would someone want to take a look at the property? “I went over, and there were a lot of knickknacks,” says Graydon. “But then we pulled out a stoneware jug that sold for $17,500 and a birds-eye-view print of College Hill that was bought by the head of their historical society for around $3,000. It all would have gone in the trash.”
The spoils of those sales went to charity, since the homeowner had no living heirs. But finding items that hold artistic significance and tremendous value—items that have been tucked away, forgotten, or even hidden in plain sight—makes the hunts worth pursuing.
Take, for example, the Irish paintings they found last year. Evan says a Dayton, Ohio–area family contacted him seeking help with a collection appraisal. He and his brothers met the family at their storage unit and began unpacking various pieces for consideration, when they found two glass-covered framed oil paintings. The family said they were just old prints and not very interesting, but a closer look revealed the original work of Paul Henry, a well- regarded Irish landscape artist. The paintings, considered “long lost works,” had likely been purchased by the client’s great-grandmother, who was from Ireland. In Connemara sold for $217,600 and Connemara Landscape for $209,100 at Caza Sikes’s September 2021 auction. Evan says the sales were covered in The Irish Times and Smithsonian Magazine and enabled the Dayton family to purchase a house in Maine.
Media attention isn’t exactly new for Caza Sikes. Graydon has been a regular on-air appraiser for PBS’s Antiques Roadshow series for seven years. It’s been great exposure, Will says, because whenever Graydon makes an appearance the gallery sees a spike in phone calls, website visits, and e-mails. In a recently aired episode, Graydon was on camera appraising a 19th century landscape painting by a well-known artist. “There’s a mountain range in this painting, and nobody in a million years could have known what it was,” he says. “I got about 15 e-mails the next day from people in Vermont who were swearing up and down they knew that particular mountain range. It’s fun to get all the reactions.”
Reid says consignments increase almost every time Graydon is featured on Antiques Roadshow. “We’ll go and pick up a $100,000 painting in Toledo, for instance, because they’ll contact Graydon.”
During our conversation, Evan takes a light-hearted jab at Graydon. “We always give him a hard time about what kind of suit he’s going to wear,” he says, since all of the show’s on-camera appraisers have signature “gimmicky” styles like plaids or bow ties. It might be payback from earlier in the conversation when his brothers and father cracked a joke about how Evan has a pair of lucky “deal-makin’ shoes.”
The Sikes men have lots of experience and expertise in the fine art and auction business. Both Evan and Graydon are licensed appraisers, counting Cowan’s Auctions and Everything But the House among previous employers. Will directed marketing for a decade at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament before a stint with FC Cincinnati. Reid owned Oakley Paint & Glass for 25 years before selling the business and later renovating the space to house Caza Sikes in 2017.
Will says the business did just under $3 million in art sales last year, a 68 percent increase from 2020. Evan says it usually takes much longer for an auction company to even get to $1 million in sales. “We’ve all worked for big companies, so it’s been a relief to open a small business where you don’t have all those layers of management,” says Reid. “Everybody can spend time with their families, and we all cover for each other.”
Caza Sikes hosts its next live auctions in September, October, and December.