The multitude of television shows devoted to antiques are rarely popular with the antiques trade as a whole – in a well-worn argument some credit them with the disintegration of the dealing community itself – but auctioneers are ready participants both for the publicity and the prospect of a decent consignment.
The occasionally-maligned Flog It! has, for example, turned up some more-than-decent lots in its time and was the source of the Aboriginal artefact sold for record figures at the Lincoln Auction Rooms of Golding Young & Mawer (17.5% buyer's premium)on August 15.
As the cameras rolled, the early 19th century stone carved broad shield with earth pigments illustrated on this page was offered.
Given no estimate in the catalogue and lotted together with five other pieces of inconsequential African tribal art, it attracted multiple bids from the room, the telephone and the internet.
The mix of collectors, dealers and museums included UK, US and French participants, but the battle came down to one fought by the internal Australian market. The winning bid of £30,000 was made by the Sydney Museum of Primitive Art on the telephone with the under-bidder being a leading Australian gallery bidding on the internet.
The museum has previously acquired Aboriginal art from Golding Young & Mawer's auction house.
Broad shields such as this, common to the south-east coastal and river areas of Australia, were fashioned from the outer bark of the gum tree, and singularly engraved and decorated using a black basalt stone scraper and ochred pigments rubbed into the incised design.
"Very few broad shields come on the market and each is viewed as an individual work of art and their merits considered by connoisseurs on that basis," commented auctioneer Colin Young.
The price represents a house record for tribal art at Golding Young & Mawer, beating a group of lime spatulas from Papua New Guinea sold in December 2009 at £26,500.