Collectors of Clarice Cliff have voiced their opposition to increased auctioneers’ charges with some refusing to attend Christie’s latest sale of the popular Art Deco pottery.
This follows Leonard Griffin’s decision to resign from his position as a consultant to Christie’s South Kensington over the issue after 18 years service.
Mr Griffin, author and the founder of the Clarice Cliff Collectors’ Club, told ATG that the new buyer’s premium charge of 25 per cent (29.375% including VAT) for lots selling below £10,000 had placed him “in an impossible position between the auctioneers and the collectors”.
In his letter of resignation, extracts of which were posted on the Clarice Cliff Collectors’ Club website, he wrote: “The new minimum lot value, plus the 29.375% premium, has in my mind made it impossible for Christie’s to serve the lower end of the Clarice market. Any specialist sale should be able to cater financially for every sector of collectors.”
Prior to the CSK’s sale of Clarice Cliff and Moorcroft on October 23, a debate about the auction drew an unprecedented response and over 2500 hits on the open forum section of the club website. Comments posted included suggestions that collectors should boycott the sale. Paul Green, for example, wrote: “As collectors I feel we should vote with our feet.”
At the sale itself, attendance was markedly down on previous years with only about 50 people present. The results were also mixed for the 148 Clarice Cliff lots – fewer entries than any previous equivalent sale at Christie’s South Kensington.
The selling rate was 63 per cent and the majority of those lots that did find buyers sold either on or below low estimate.
A Geometric Garden Meiping vase (estimate £12,000-15,000) was among the 55 casualties.
Commenting on the sale, dealer Colin Mawston said: “I spoke to many of the bidders and everyone was very conscious of the new commission rates and the devastating effect of import VAT on some of the lots – it was inevitable they would be adjusting their bids accordingly.”
However, Christie’s specialist in charge, Joy McCall, denied that the sale had been adversely affected by the premium rise.
“Overall I’m quite satisfied with the sale,” she told ATG. “Although the premium issue provoked a conversation on the club website, many members still came to the sale and bought.”
Ms McCall said the auctioneers had not yet announced their sales calendar for next year but they were now aiming to have only lots worth over £500.
Clarice Cliff collectors generally acknowledge that these specialist sales at Christie’s have encouraged interest in the subject with the formerly biannual sales providing a focus for the collecting community and often attracting over 200 enthusiasts to South Kensington.
Now other auctioneers will be hoping to benefit from the premium rises at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Both Bonhams in London and Gardiner Houlgate in Bath have offered specialist sales this autumn. Dreweatt Neate are also offering 33 lots of Clarice Cliff on November 14, which include the Tambourine Dancer plaque which Leonard Griffin described as “the find of the year”.
By Alex Capon