Slow but sure

27th August 2020

An apparent surge in demand among private art collectors left the Modern British and 20th Century Art auction at Woolley and Wallis with just 10 lots unsold on 26th August. The sale finished with a total of £918,000 after taking an unprecedented nine and a half hours to sell 368 lots.

Attention was undoubtedly drawn to the sale by the inclusion of the collection of the late Dame Elisabeth Frink and Lin Jammet (Frink’s son), which attracted strong bidding across the board (read more here), but after the hammer fell on the last lot of the collection the buyers remained undeterred.

“Some prices have been incredibly high,” explained Paintings specialist, Victor Fauvelle. “Landscapes seem to have been especially popular this sale, whether it was the expansive rural view of Richard Eurich’s View from Bolton Abbey (lot 236), which doubled top estimate to reach £16,250  or the more industrial feel of East London’s Canning Town by Roger Wagner (lot 184), which sold for ten times its estimate at £6,250. We also saw strong interest in works which showed real character and detail, such as Eric Holt’s Domestic Scene (lot 233) from 1978 that made £6,875, or Frank Brangwyn’s watercolour sketch portrait of Captain Shas (lot 251) that sold for £1,250.”

The signs for a good sale were all there in the days prior to the auction as the request for condition reports was up 50% on the same equivalent sale from December 2019, and over 600 clients registered to bid in the 48 hours before the sale alone.

Top lot of the sale was the front cover (lot 290) – a Henry Moore bronze maquette from the 1950s – which fetched £57,500, while another small patinated bronze by the same artist (lot 291) realised £45,000. A Mary Fedden oil titled White Arches (lot 275) was one of ten of the artist’s works included in the sale (several in the Frink collection) and had been purchased by Sir John Verney (a friend of Fedden’s) from the Redfern Gallery in 1956. Appearing on the market for the first time in nearly 70 years it sold for £48,750.

“Private buyers really dominated the sale, which is a trend we have seen across our auctions since lockdown began to lift,” continued Fauvelle. “Many are now engaging with sales online and perhaps feel more confident in bidding remotely. Either way, almost a third of the buyers in the sale had not bought through us before June of this year, which is a really encouraging sign for the market.”

Changes to the sale calendar post-lockdown mean that the Paintings department now go straight to their Old Masters, British and European Paintings sale on 8th September, which includes a number of portraits and other works from the Rothschild family of Exbury House in Hampshire.


All prices quoted include buyer's premium.


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