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Despite understandable concerns that the market may take a major hit, the sale total and selling rate held up at this sale at least, despite the number of people in attendance in the saleroom itself being significantly reduced.

The mixed auction of Modern and Post-War British art raised £2.11m with 237 of the 291 lots sold (81.4%). Although the total was down on the £2.48m from the equivalent sale last year, Sotheby’s reported that they had nearly 10% more bidders overall.

Of those actively bidding at the current sale, 85% were on the internet which compared to 54% at the 2019 auction.

Online buyers hoovered up 53% of the lots sold, a 30% increase year-on-year and a remarkable figure for a category which is normally dominated by room and phone bidders.

Sotheby’s head of sale Robin Cawdron-Stewart said: “The depth of bidding was an encouraging sign, with participants from 41 countries – in line with last year – and a surge in online buying.”

He also pointed to the fact that this sale had a lot going for it in terms of supply with a mixture of works by leading names in the modern British sector and pioneering studio ceramic potters. The sale had a “something for every collector” factor too, he said, that seems to have yielded additional benefit.

Four of the top five lots at the sale sold to internet bidders. These included the top lot, Bridget Riley’s (b.1931) October 5, Revision of August 11, a classic colourful abstract composition from 1998 made in pencil and gouache on paper. Estimated at £60,000-80,000, it was knocked down at £100,000 to a private collector.

A record at the sale came for Nina Hamnett (1890-1956) when Reclining Man, a rare portrait from c.1918 outstripped a £2500-3500 estimate and was knocked down at £17,000.

Irish art sale postponed

Despite the relative success of the ‘Made in Britain’ sale given the current climate, Sotheby’s have had to postpone the sale of Irish art from the Estate of the Late Patrick Kelly which was due to be held on March 18.

In a statement, the auction house said: “Following conversations with the family, the sale will be postponed owing to the exceptional circumstances. Since its announcement in October, the sale has been enthusiastically received by the public and collectors alike, and we look forward to holding the sale at a future date when the collection can be rightfully honoured.

“A new sale date will be communicated in due course.”