In those days there were no fax machines, let alone the internet or email. If you wanted to find out what was going on in the auction world, your best bet was to actually get out and go to a sale.
As a London saleroom correspondent learning on the job, walking round the capital’s rooms was the ideal training ground. CSK in particular proved an invaluable place to practice.
It wasn’t a daunting exercise to cross the threshold at the Old Brompton Road, notebook in hand. From the reception desk, often complete with canine assistant, to a first-floor press office that you could stroll into unannounced to collect black and white photographs, through to the individual specialists, it was the essence of friendliness and approachability.
It has remained so ever since.
Showcase for the Market
CSK was a rich repository for someone with a weekly column to fill. With plenty of sales taking place in the space of a week (often several at the same time once it got into its stride) any visit yielded ample material.
In an era before paddles and serial phone bidding, dealers with shops to stock comprised much of the audience, so attendance was an invaluable way to find out who was buying what on a regular basis.
The bread and butter of CSK was its weekly sales of furniture, silver, jewellery, ceramics and paintings. These were the days when bonheur du jours and credenzas were king and there were regular takers for Ridgeway dessert services.
But, of course, some of the most exciting events came when Christie’s, responding to emerging trends in the trade, showcased new areas for collecting: die-cast toys, early photographs, mechanical music and later, sports and entertainment memorabilia.
CSK also notably divided the burgeoning Art Nouveau and Deco sector into multifarious specialist strands focusing on collectable areas such as Lalique, Clarice Cliff, Carltonware or sculpture. These micromarkets were perfect food for a specialist report and enthusiastic specialists such as Christopher Proudfoot, Hugo Marsh, Lindsey Stewart and Pat Frost (I could name many, many more) freely gave up valuable time to discuss their sales at length.
Like many, I shall miss going to Christie’s South Kensington. There is a metaphorical gap now in the Old Brompton Road.