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Art and antiques news from 2001

In 2001 Alfred Taubman and Sir Anthony Tennant, respectively chairmen of Sotheby's and Christie's in the 1990s, were indicted by a US federal grand jury on charges of colluding to fix rates of commission between 1993 and 1999.

Taubman received a jail sentence the following year whereas Tennant refused to leave Britain to stand trial in New York and could not be extradited because there was no equivalent criminal offence in the UK.

In other news restrictions on travel in the UK due to foot and mouth affected auctions and fairs across the country.

The attacks of 9/11, in which 3000 people died, not only disrupted fairs and sales in Manhattan but also led to fewer US buyers travelling to the UK to acquire art and antiques. Trade in antique furniture was particularly badly affected in the following years.

Stanley’s knife cuts £1500 dash

28 November 2001

‘Little mesters’ were the sub-contractors of the Sheffield cutlery industry – self-employed artisans who hired space in large factories to forge, grind and haft their blades, the factory owner receiving a substantial cut from their sale.

Design & The Decorative Arts in Britain 1500-1900

28 November 2001

Design & The Decorative Arts in Britain 1500-1900 by Michael Snodin and John Styles, published by V&A Publications. ISBN 185177338X £45hb

Market-fresh flask tempts buyers

28 November 2001

As fresh, quality private consignments become ever scarcer, the competition for such works must make it difficult for auctioneers nationwide to put sales together. Although Bonhams’ (15/10 buyer’s premium) 400-lot Fine Asian Art sale on November 12 had fewer top quality works to tempt buyers than at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the modestly estimated and fresh-to-the-market tea dust-glazed moonflask, Qianlong seal mark and period, saw buyers jostling for ownership.

Vermeer’s Camera: Uncovering the Truth Behind the Masterpieces

28 November 2001

Vermeer’s Camera: Uncovering the Truth Behind the Masterpieces by Philip Steadman, published by the Oxford University Press. ISBN 019215967 £17.99hb

Northeastern promise

28 November 2001

Individual entries consigned to Sotheby’s and Christie’s Chinese sales were an encouraging reminder to any jaded dealer that if you look hard enough and long enough, sleepers are still to be found.

Birthday gift yields £23,000 bonus

28 November 2001

Nothing is more certain to draw buyers in their droves than modestly estimated works from private collections. A single textile entry and two conservatively estimated porcelain collections did just that at Sotheby’s Olympia (17.5/10% buyer’s premium) inaugural Chinese Works of Art on November 16.

Top heavy price for pear-shaped vase

28 November 2001

Chinese sales at Christie’s South Kensington (17.5/10% buyer’s premium) can always be relied on to produce some good prices during Asia week. While the morning works of art session in their Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sale, November 8, was quiet, business picked up in the afternoon for the ceramics section.

£27,000 Rayner is put in her place

28 November 2001

One of the advantages of being an auction house with offices and salerooms spread around the country is that items with regional associations can be sold in the areas with the relevant local interest. This is precisely what happened on November 8 when the signed Louise Rayner (1832-1924) watercolour that had originally been consigned to Phillips Bath came up for sale 120 miles and one corporate take-over away at Bonhams Chester (15/10% buyer’s premium).

Wrought iron Armada chest

28 November 2001

This 17th century wrought iron Armada chest had stood unopened in the attic of an English country house for 180 years until it was finally unsealed earlier this year and found to contain a mass of papers relating to Dr William Harvey and his brother Eliab which had been deposited there by his descendants in 1821.

Lawrence’s to close Taunton rooms and consolidate at Crewkerne

28 November 2001

Somerset auctioneers Lawrence Fine Art will close their Taunton salerooms on December 21 and stop holding monthly sales at Crewkerne.

The third box that hid a £30,000 secret...

28 November 2001

On paper there was not much to separate these three French boxes at Dreweatt Neate’s sale on October 31-November 1. The engine turned gold snuffbox pictured above right was 19th century in date and expected to sell for £500-800.

New galleries and free entry at the V&A

28 November 2001

The long-awaited opening of the new British Galleries at the V&A last week has restored to the museum and its visitors many of its finest and best loved exhibits in an appropriate yet innovative environment.

Keeping updated and on message online

28 November 2001

Antiques & Collectables (the goodwebguide), published by The Good Web Guide Ltd, Broadwall House, 21 Broadwall, London SE1 9PL. (ISBN 1-903282-21-7). £9.99 hb

If These Pots Could Talk: Collecting 2000 Years of British Household Pottery

28 November 2001

If These Pots Could Talk: Collecting 2000 Years of British Household Pottery, by Ivor Noël Hume, published by the Chipstone Foundation, Milwaukee, US/University Press of New England, US. ISBN 158465161 £46hb To order in UK contact University Press Marketing on 01235 766662/ email: upm@wantage@compuserve.com

Taubman’s defence seeks to discredit Davidge and Brooks

26 November 2001

Counsel highlights undisputed lies: The most dramatic episode yet in the trial of Alfred Taubman was played out in a New York court last week. The former boss of Sotheby’s was accused by his one-time protegé, Diana ‘Dede Brooks’, of forcing her into a criminal conspiracy with arch rival Christie’s. He denies any wrongdoing.

£80,000 double for T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf in the Frederick B. Adams sale

22 November 2001

The Frederick B. Adams Jnr. library of English & American Literature was sold by Sotheby’s on November 6 and 7. The second day was devoted entirely to Adams’ magnificent Thomas Hardy collection, but among the highlights of the general sale was an inscribed presentation copy of the 1923, first English edition of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, illustrated right, that sold at a higher than expected £80,000 to Peter Harrington.

Ruskin adds his name to those protesting the arrival of railways

22 November 2001

Robert Somervell’s A Protest against the Extension of Railways in the Lake District, published in Windermere in 1876, contains “articles thereon reprinted from the Saturday Review etc.”, and a nine page preface by one of those who objected to the intrusion of the railways into the Lake District – John Ruskin.

Sell-out in Rome for season’s opener

22 November 2001

SALES IN ITALY: The first auctions to take place in Italy this autumn in the midst of these days of gloom have been encouraging. In Rome on October 30, Christie’s (22.5/18.5% buyer’s premium) sold the contents of the residences of a collector, Michele Falzone del Barbarò. All 362 lots sold for around £400,000, far exceeding the auctioneers’ expectations.

Consulted by Copernicus

22 November 2001

USA: THREE LOTS representing the principal science, medicine and natural history sections of a Swann sale of October 18 are described below, and illustrated right is one a of small group of patents that featured in the New York sale.

London is hit by USA knock-on effect

22 November 2001

A major name, high quality, freshness to the market and a reasonable estimate are meant to be the all-important keys to success for a picture at auction. At least they used to before the terrorist attacks of September 11.