Modern technology is proving very adept at connecting specialist dealers and collectors with their sometimes far-flung quarry.
It should thus come as no surprise to learn that some of the biggest sleepers of 2017 – at least those secured by buyers on thesaleroom.com – came in the more esoteric areas of the market.
Chinese works of art are a familiar quarry for internet bidders – so too is tribal art.
But this year’s selection includes one of a group of plaster death masks of Victorian criminals found in a Cumbrian outhouse, and a rare folding and cased map of Mexico described by the buyer as “a cartographic cornerstone for the foundation of the Republic of Mexico and the history of the American Southwest”.
It is all good news for vendors whose confidence in regional salerooms and their ability to reach far beyond traditional local hinterlands continues to grow.
“One has to feel some sympathy with the Turkish men who sat through a handbag sale
But every seasoned auction-goer will admit the global market does come at a price.
One has to feel some sympathy for the two Turkish gentleman who sat through the duration of a recent Sworders Objects of Desire sale, watching the sale of countless handbags and designer scarves in the hope of buying a necklace they had identified as an Iskender faturan tesbih.
Estimated at £100 but sold at £18,100, they did not even get to put their hands in the air.
Bid Barometer: Top 10 ‘sleepers’ on thesaleroom.com in 2017
The online tribal gathering grows
Auctioneers across the country are increasingly tuned in to the possibilities of tribal art – aware that despite all the challenges of dating and attribution, this is one field that can really add to the bottom line.
This was writ large by thesaleroom.com’s top price of the year that was also among the biggest ‘sleepers’ of 2017. Later in the year John Nicholson’s followed the £140,000 sale of a Maori flute to a leading Paris dealer with a consignment of Maori artefacts with a mid-19th century, primary provenance. They too enjoyed plenty of bidding from the global tribal art collecting centres.