Munn on the move
Already the recipient of an OBE in 2013 for services to the Samaritans charity, Wartski’s managing director Geoffrey Munn was promoted to the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) in the 2018 New Year’s Honours – an apt moment to announce his imminent retirement and the firm’s move.
Swapping Grafton Street in Mayfair for 60 St James’s Street, the new showroom opened in October, by which time Munn was plotting an expanded career in television, more charity work and mudlarking on the banks of the Thames. “Certainly nothing Munndane!” he punned.
The year had begun with less positive news from the southern hemisphere. Paul Sumner’s hopes to restructure Australian auction house Mossgreen melted away as administrators at accountancy firm BDO began winding down the business. Sumner, who co-founded the firm in 2004, told ATG: “This is personally and professionally devastating to me.”
Around 400 people and businesses were owed money totalling over Aus$12m, including vendors who were later asked to pay Aus$353 per item to have stored goods released. It took months but eventually the courts decided that the administrators were wrong to levy the charge.
By then ex-Mossgreen staff had set up three new firms while the New Zealand business, Mossgreen Webb’s (acquired in 2015), had been rescued.
In London, the changes that followed key shifts in the saleroom landscape were subtler. Chiswick Auctions took on a trio of books specialists from Bloomsbury Auctions and more ex-Christie’s South Kensington fine art specialists as the west London saleroom kicked off 2018 with a new sales programme.
Weekly general sales in west London were shelved in favour of fortnightly events titled Interiors & Design and a raft of new specialist sales in disciplines from Islamic art to photography.
The following month Maidenhead auction house Dawson’s had bought the assets of Hampstead Auctions and was set to open a valuation office in the north London area, while later in the year Fellows opened splendid new premises in Mayfair.
Among the 150 dealers at the first Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair of the year was a newcomer of sorts, Nic McElhatton, former head of Christie’s South Kensington. Assuming a hybrid role, he is combining life as a dealer with consultancy work for Christie’s and Roseberys.
In describing his new role to ATG, McElhatton said: “Many consignments at CSK were from dealers who relied on it. In a way, Battersea is another opportunity to sell instead of consigning at South Ken. It fills a void.”
Another January fair in the capital was the London Art Antiques & Interiors Fair at the ExCel exhibition space. Clarion Events worked hard to carve out a niche for the event as it entered its second year. However, it won’t be back for 2019.
Quote of the month
The more traditional, old-fashioned dealers are being priced out of St James’s
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The Kutchinsky brand has a long history but today is associated with the products of the post-war era. By 1958 the firm chose to celebrate the end of wartime restrictions and a return to luxury. Output was eye-catching – and many did dare to wear. This 1960s 18ct gold brilliant-cut diamond, cabochon turquoise and sapphire bracelet is a good example and was hammered down for £5000 (plus 23/15% buyer’s premium) at Fellows on January 18.
In the summer of 2017 Dreweatts specialists found themselves in five warehouse units surrounded by packing crates unopened for two or more decades. One of the highlights of the single-owner collection offered at Donnington Priory on January 23-25 was this large Indian miniature of the heavens, 2ft 2in x 4ft 1in (65cm x 1.25m), painted in Rajasthan (probably Jaipur) c.1780. Pitched at £8000-12,000, it took £80,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium).
The core of Sotheby’s sale of 80 lots of Nelson memorabilia was a cache of lots acquired in the sale rooms by the ‘princely’ vendor in 2005. These included a fragment of the Union Jack believed to have flown from HMS Victory at Trafalgar in 1805. Acquired for £100,000 in 2005, here it was knocked down at £240,000 (plus 25/20/12.9% buyer’s premium).
Leading Roseberys’ sale of 20th century decorative arts on January 23 was this 2ft (60cm) vase and cover by the French Art Deco ceramicist René Buthaud (1886-1986). The estimate of £1000-2000 was doubtless part of its appeal, although the vase had a restored crack to the body and a replaced finial to the cover. It sold to an online buyer from France at £26,000 (plus buyer’s premium).
This cameo glass plaque by George Woodall c.1920 was previously owned by Woodall’s daughter Alice and came by descent to his great-grandsons. They were in the room to watch it sell to a UK bidder for £84,000 (plus 24% buyer’s premium) at Stourbridge firm Fieldings on January 6. Will Farmer of Fieldings described its sale as “the pinnacle of 16 years of specialist glass sales and an absolute career highlight”.