Continued strength among the Asian Art and Jewellery markets has seen Woolley and Wallis emerge from 2019 once again named as the UK’s leading regional saleroom.
It is a position that the firm has held for the last 11 years, strengthened by the sale of a string of seven figure lots – their 11th being a Chinese scroll painting by 20th century artist Zhang Daqian, which sold in May 2019 for £2.6m.
“I am very proud that Woolley and Wallis has retained its position at the top,” said Chairman, John Axford, who took over the helm from Paul Viney in September last year – the latter continuing as a non-executive director and primary valuer for the company. “We are fortunate that the political and economic turmoil of the last year has not impacted on the business, and we continue to be able to attract both trade and private clients.”
Axford puts the firm’s success down to his team of specialists, highlighting that the saleroom is one of very few to continue to offer standalone sales of (for example) furniture, silver and ceramics where others combine their specialisms. “January 2019 saw a record sale total for our Furniture department – a record that I am delighted to say has now been bettered by the first sale of 2020,” he continued. “Furniture is often one of those areas of the market that is written off, but we are keen to keep building on these key departments and, in fact, have seen them go from strength to strength in recent years.”
Private collections, always a key staple of the auction house, have had a significant impact on its turnover in recent years. The collection of the late John F. Braund of Turpin’s Antiques totalled £131,000 when sold by the Furniture department in July, while two private collections of Martin Brothers pottery were a sell out for the Design department in November. The Ingrid McAlpine Collection of antiquities fetched a six figure sum in September, while the Medals department had an extraordinary sale with the Jeremy Hepplewhite collection later in the year. The studio of the artist Fredda Brilliant drew buyers to the May Paintings sale, and the Silver department started the year by making headlines with the KB Collection of Pencils.
“Single owner sales have taken over from what used to be the traditional ‘house’ sale,” explains Axford. “Collectors are the lifeblood of our business and our specialists are adept at putting together the sort of sales that really appeal to them. I’m sure that we can continue to offer our clients the best levels of expertise across a number of different areas, and hope that we can expand on this over the coming years. There are a number of exciting prospects already in the pipeline for 2020, and I look forward to my first full year as Chairman.”