Helped by a £2.6m windfall, Salisbury auctioneers Woolley & Wallis emerged from 2005 as the largest-grossing UK provincial saleroom.
The Salisbury salerooms are celebrating total sales from January to December 2005 of £8.96m (not including buyer’s premium), well up on record figures of £7.37m achieved in the previous 12 months.
Strong results were recorded across all selling disciplines but the significant contributor to this impressive sum was the Yuan dynasty double gourd vase sold in July for £2.6m, by far the highest price ever realised in a UK saleroom outside London. That vase was part of the Salisbury salerooms’ first stand-alone catalogue of Oriental works of art, a sale they will make a biannual event this year (the next on Saturday, July 15). The firm also plan to repeat this year’s sale devoted to the works of the Martin Brothers potters.
Securing stellar lots proved key to the prosperity of the UK’s major provincial auction houses in a tough climate that last year claimed half a dozen of the country’s smaller auction businesses.
Gorringes sold the second top lot outside London last year – John William Godward’s rediscovered A Cool Retreat II that reached £440,000 at their Lewes rooms in March. Total sales in 2005 of £8.1m from some 65,000 lots were a marginal improvement on 2004 – a pleasing result said associate partner Nick Muston given the continuing slide in prices for lower-end material that had hit the performance of 46 weekly sales at the Garden Street saleroom.
Helped by the sale of the Codex Stosch in July for a house record £230,000, Lyon & Turnbull of Edinburgh consolidated 2004’s record figures of £6.77m with sales of £6.2m in 2005. On January 26-27 they will sell the Drambuie Collection of Scottish paintings, furniture, works of art and ceramics, estimated to bring in the region of £2m.
For the first time in many years Tennants are not the number one saleroom outside London. Total sales at The Auction Centre, Leyburn from January to December were £8.8m, falling from record sales of £9.46m in 2004. Tennants’ Adam Schoon expressed great satisfaction in figures that, he believed, reflected investment made three years ago in specialist staff and the addition of the specialist categories from postage stamps to Beswick figures that now beef up weekly general sales. He conceded, however, that Tennants are now no longer an outlet for low-value furniture and pointed to the need for all staff to “work 20 per cent harder for 10 per cent less profit”.
Up from £12.8m in 2004, The Fine Art Auction Group posted total sales of £16.1m across their network of salerooms in the South of England and Neales of Nottingham. Much of the improvement in revenue can be ascribed to the acquisition in January of Hampton’s Fine Art with salerooms in Godalming and Marlborough. The Godalming rooms provided TFAAG with their two top selling lots of 2005, an Atkinson Grimshaw oil of the Glasgow docks (£160,000 in November) and a Fabergé gold, diamond and enamel snuff box (£115,000 in July).
The figure of £16.1m excludes revenue from valuations and other fee income such as the private treaty sale of an historically important folio of First Fleet watercolour drawings to the National Library of Australia, believed to be in excess of £1m.
“Although the market overall is still tough and polarised, we have seen good business in the better end of the regional market – the £5000-50,000 price level,” TFAAG marketing director Bruce Cairnduff told ATG.
“The general end is still hard work. Much of our restructuring work for 2006 has been put in place in recognition of these market conditions – more specialised sales at the top end, and pooling our general sales into fewer locations to be able to offer larger, more diversified sales at the general end of the market.”
Last week’s ATG announced TFAAG’s plans for a new selling centre near Guildford, due to open in April, that will ultimately replace their current salerooms in Eastbourne, Tunbridge Wells and Godalming.