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Speaking exclusively to the Antiques Trade Gazette, Mr Roberts described the move as “a strategic alliance to give Freeman’s access to the structure of specialised sales we are devising in Scotland and, vice-versa, to promote Scottish art and antiques in America”. For this purpose Freeman’s have recruited Alasdair Nichol, ex-Phillips specialist in Scottish paintings.

In terms of the direct marketing of the venture, the firms will make a joint investment in computer networks involving the Internet, and to this end the former operations manager of Phillips’ regional network in the North East of England, Eric Smith, has been appointed vice-president of Freeman’s and consultant to Lyon and Turnbull.

Mr Smith said the network would ease the passage of international consignments to both auction houses, “by identifying existing vendors, what goods they have and where they would be best sold”. By effectively shrinking the geographical distances involved, he hopes that such a network will help to raise the profile of Philadelphia and Edinburgh in the global art and antiques market.