It Was the Biggest Job of His Life. Was He On Target, or Off by Half?

Whenever a worthy cause needs help in Rockland, Maine, this town of 7,000 overlooking Penobscot Bay, people reach out to Bruce Gamage Jr., an auctioneer who runs an antiques shop downtown.

Regularly, he drops what he’s doing to drum up bidding at charity auctions organized for, say, the historical society or an injured child, displaying the professional expertise he’s honed for years while selling off silver sets and scrimshaw from dusty attics and the estates of the recently deceased.

French Gothic cabinets? Amethyst rings? Walking sticks? An oil portrait or gouache?

Gamage is as established an expert on such items as you’ll find around Rockland, a working-class town once known for its quarries and fish canneries. Many in town say he is just as self-sacrificing a spirit.

“It’s almost all we need to do is send him the date, he is just so generous with his time,” said Amie Hutchison, executive director of Trekkers, a local nonprofit that mentors young people.

Gamage’s expertise was tested, though, in 2018 when he was given what he called “the most important job I’ve ever had.”

Robert Indiana, the master Pop artist, had just died, at 89, on the nearby island of Vinalhaven, and Gamage’s good friend, James Brannan, a lawyer, was the executor of the estate. Brannan hired Gamage to appraise the sizeable collection of artwork that Indiana had left behind.

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