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The Fine Art Society has left its home of the past 142 years in Mayfair’s Bond Street. Contemporary art dealership Halcyon Gallery is taking over the space.

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Antiquities on alert

With the formation of a dedicated Antiquities Trafficking Unit within the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, antiquities were under a cloud in New York.

Investigations into looted art proved an unwelcome distraction to a number of fairs in the Big Apple – antiquities trade bodies would later talk of a witch hunt – while the New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC) took the decision to drop antiquities from its offering altogether.

Kevin Foley, who has managed the renowned auction and dealing event since 1998, said: “The trade has become the focus of increasing enforcement actions by governmental authorities both within and outside the United States at the civil and criminal enforcement levels.

“The board simply felt that the right thing to do would be to avoid facilitating in any way potentially questionable transactions.”

Hallmark watch

The London Assay Office promised to crack down on what it said was a rise in illegal antique silver being offered for sale.

In conjunction with The Antique Plate Committee (APC), the Assay Office said it would publish a brochure and organise a new series of conferences on hallmark rules.

Dr Robert Organ, deputy warden of the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office, said: “There is less expertise in silver than there used to be in the trade. We help dealers and auction houses to not fall foul of the law.”

FAS on the move

Bond Street is much changed from its antique-dealing pomp a generation ago, but it was a moment in time when it emerged that venerable dealership The Fine Art Society would be ending its 142-year stint on London’s best-known retail thoroughfare and was searching for a new home.

The five-storey townhouse at 148 New Bond Street with its famous Godwin façade had been the home of FAS since 1876 but, as rents and business rates had risen, closed its doors in August. The firm is seeking new London premises while trading from a temporary location in Chelsea and a gallery in Edinburgh.

Art fair at Saatchi

It was all change too for the 20/21 British Art Fair. Brothers Robert and Jonathan Sandelson bought the fair from co-founders Gay Hutson and Angela ‘Bunny’ Wynn and announced it would take place in Saatchi Gallery for 2018 under the new name of British Art Fair.

Since the event launched as the 20th Century British Art Fair at the Royal College of Art in 1988, the focus had been on modern and contemporary British art. For the September edition the expanded remit included pre-1900 to contemporary British art.

Wynn, co-organiser of 120 art fairs across more than 30 years, sadly died in May after an aneurism: “She was the only fair organiser I’ve ever met from whom I didn’t mind getting a ticking off,” said dealer and regular exhibitor Andrew Sim.

Quote of the month

There’s an exceptional amount of money available for the best items but not much for the rest

Guy Schooling, chairman of Sworders on the state of the regional auction market

Key sales

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19th century ‘natural history’ specimen – £4700 at Sworders.

Sworders’ inaugural Out of the Ordinary sale on February 13 certainly lived up to its title when this late 19th century ‘natural history’ specimen purporting to be the mummified body of a creature that was half mammal and half fish sold for £4700 (plus 23% buyer’s premium).

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Hans Coper stoneware Cycladic form – £305,000 at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood in Exeter.

A sensational result emerged for the artist-potter Hans Coper (1920-81) at the 20th Century & Contemporary sale at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood in Exeter. On February 27, a stoneware Cycladic form estimated at £4000-6000 sold to a bidder on thesaleroom.com at £305,000 (plus 21% buyer’s premium) – a record for British studio pottery.

America’s oldest china teapot – attributed to a pioneering North American porcelain factory – sold on February 20 for a remarkable £460,000 (plus 25/12% buyer’s premium) at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury. The hitherto unrecorded vessel, only the seventh piece known from the John Bartlam factory in Cain Hoy, South Carolina, was purchased in the room by London porcelain dealer Rod Jellicoe bidding for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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Restored British quad poster for Dracula from 1958 – €16,000 at Whyte’s.

Throughout the year strong prices were achieved for vintage posters – particularly James Bond, Star Wars and horror when it came to film designs. This restored British quad poster for Dracula starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Michael Gough, 1958 sold at Whyte’s auction in Dublin on February 2 for €16,000 (plus 20% buyer’s premium).

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An Old Master painting with a possible connection to Anthony van Dyck – £440,000 at Holloway’s of Banbury.

An Old Master painting hung in the spare bedroom of a family home in Oxfordshire sold for a surprise £440,000 (plus 20% buyer’s premium) at Holloway’s of Banbury. Catalogued simply as ‘19th century, Continental School, St John the Evangelist and the poison chalice’, bidders on February 28 deemed the work to be northern European, with an early to mid-17th century date and a possible connection to Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641).