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Speaking exclusively to the Antiques Trade Gazette last week, Paul Sumner, who has been appointed managing director of Sotheby’s Olympia, reiterated the company’s earlier promise that their activities at Olympia would be “carefully monitored” to ensure that they “complemented” rather than clashed with the antiques fairs in the halls.

Mr Sumner, who currently runs Sotheby’s Australia and New Zealand, where he has been for the past 13 years, has just returned there after visiting London and meeting with leading members of the trade to build a working relationship to that end. He added that Sotheby’s were also investigating ways of actively promoting the fairs.

Sotheby’s have now unveiled their future plans at Olympia almost in full, including the range of experts and departments as well as a provisional sales schedule until the end of the year. Departments that will move to Olympia in their entirety include the Japanese department, ceramics and glass, silver and vertu, clocks, watches, fashion and textiles, rugs and carpets, scientific instruments, sporting memorabilia and rock and roll and entertainment memorabilia.
The company will divide sales of furniture and paintings, applied art and works of art between Olympia and New Bond Street.

Tim Wonnacott, who remains chairman of a scaled down Sotheby’s South at Billingshurst, also becomes chairman of Sotheby’s Olympia with a remit to develop business on a regional basis as well as overseeing insurance and probate valuations. Links to the company’s regional offices will be developed to help source material and Mr Sumner revealed that he was paying special attention to improving client services so that vendors of mid-price goods felt they were getting as good a service as those at the top end. Improving online services and introducing more streamlined systems, including bar coding, would also help, he said.

Asked about the risks of aiming at the middle market when sales in the current climate generally seem to favour the top and bottom ends, he was confident of being able to develop a healthy business. “Pricing is key. You can’t put too punchy an estimate on middle market material, But anyway, when I say ‘middle market’ I’m talking about value rather than quality. If the quality is there, it shouldn’t be a problem attracting buyers.”

Sotheby’s Olympia will host regular lectures on a wide variety of topics. The first series of 10, to be offered by Sotheby’s Institute and presented by Roddy Llewellyn, will be for gardening enthusiasts and is entitled Branch and Root. It will begin at Olympia in October.

Mr Sumner, whose parents were West Country antiques dealers, has worked for both Phillips and Christie’s, initially in English furniture, before moving into
20th century works of art, including Art Nouveau and Art Deco and then onto the management side.

The timetable for the launch of Sotheby’s Olympia is now as follows: building work has already begun; the departments and management teams move in wholesale in mid-August; the rooms open on September 3, with the first sale scheduled for September 18.