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Wishing all our clients a very happy and prosperous 2023! After a restful break we look forward to reopening on 3 January and bringing you an exciting calendar of auctions. The past year has been a busy one and here Jonathan Pratt, Dreweatts Managing Director, takes a look back at some of the highlights from 2022.
With the anticipation of a New Year and the excitements that 2023 will bring, it is always nice to look back at some of the events that made this past year such a notable one at Dreweatts. But before I do, I should mention how the market has changed over the last two years.
The pandemic prompted a seismic shift to online bidding, destroying the myth of a price ceiling to what buyers will purchase unseen. Having pioneered the use of 360 degree virtual viewings we have found that this shift online has persisted with more than 80% of transactions conducted over the internet in 2022. Clients are of course still viewing auctions but our fastidious focus on accurate condition reports and remote video viewing has made the things we sell more accessible to an increasingly global audience.
Dreweatts x Forum Auctions
2022 also saw our merger with specialist works on paper house, Forum Auctions. The young firm had been established by past Bloomsbury Auctions colleagues and it has been a huge pleasure re-uniting teams and broadening the offerings now available to both client cohorts. It is notable that the two firms’ combined turnover in 2022 reached just shy of £50,000,000 from over 30,000 individual lots.
The first notable highlight of the year came in the form of a rediscovered Henry Moore lead figure, selling for £400,000 in March. The Dreweatts Modern Picture department spent two years working with the Henry Moore Foundation to attain attribution for this previously unrecorded figure of a Mother and Child. It had stood for much of its life on the mantel of a Wiltshire farmhouse, propping up cards and party invitations.
Lot 15: λ Henry Moore (British 1898-1986), 'Mother and Child', Lead | Sold for £400,000 (16 March 2022)
Six months later the Modern & Contemporary Art team had the privilege of selling a group of 15 paintings by British artist David Bomberg. This was the first time the private collection had come to the market and the group sold for a collective £857,000, with the top price of £487,500 paid for the view of Petra.
Lot 48: λ David Bomberg (British 1890-1957), 'Rock Façade, North-East Wall, Petra', oil on canvas | Sold for £487,500 (19 October 2022)
Perhaps the most exciting result of the year sale was achieved by an Imperial Qianlong porcelain vase which our Head of Asian Art and auctioneer Mark Newstead sold for an amazing £1.4 million. Solid provenance is absolutely key to selling Chinese objects; this particular vase had sat in a Shropshire farmhouse kitchen for 40 years, no one realising the potential importance of the piece, and its value growing year by year. Here is a video of the vase.
Dreweatts’ Furniture department held five auctions this year, each achieving total sales of over £1.25 million. Bucking the decade long diminution in the value of “brown furniture” there has been a pleasing resurgence in buyers of 18th century English walnut and fine Georgian mahogany furniture. Alongside our Fine Furniture auctions we were proud to bring a number of single owner estate dispersals to market, including the contents at Flaxley Abbey and Chilham Castle sales in October, which sold over two days realising almost double the pre-sale estimate.
Flaxley Abbey, Gloucestershire
The synergies between Dreweatts and Forum Auctions were underscored in the May Fine Books auction, where the top two lots sold for over £200,000 having been found in a country house attic by a Dreweatts valuer. Forum’s active presence in the Modern and Contemporary prints market compliments its position as the leading auction house globally in the sale of Banksy’s edition prints; indeed one in four of all such works offered at auction annually pass through Forum’s auctions.
Banksy (b. 1974), 'Girl With Balloon', screenprint in red and black, 2004. One of several impressions of this iconic image sold in 2022, with this example realising £100,000 in July.
Further highlights from the Dreweatts stable include £200,000 for a painting of the Pantheon in Rome by Faure (Lot 112, Old Master, British and European Art, 26 May 2022), and £68,750 for a star sapphire ring made by Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany and Co. which came from the collection of Victoria, Lady de Rothschild (Lot 339, Fine Jewellery, Silver & Luxury Accessories, 7 July 2022). Again, provenance and rarity achieving strong results.
Lot 339: Tiffany & Co., Jean Schlumberger, a star sapphire and diamond dress ring, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), no heat | Sold for £68,750 (July 2022)
The various teams at Dreweatts and Forum Auctions work hard to maintain the high standards our clients rightly expect of us and no recap of 2022 would be complete without expressing my enormous gratitude for their tireless endeavours. We hope you will come to view one of our auctions and regain a sense of the excitement from bidding live and in person!