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Biennale Paris top vetters step down

The two experts who headed the Biennale Paris vetting committee, Frédéric Castaing and Michel Maket, have stepped down from their positions as chairmen ahead of the 31st edition of the fair (September 13-17).

The Biennale is run by France’s antiques dealers’ association the SNA (Syndicat National Des Antiquaires). In 2017 it set up a new form of vetting committee for the Biennale aimed at establishing strict standards and independence.

It was to be headed jointly by the chairmen of two expert associations: Castaing of the CNE (Compagnie Nationale des Experts) and Maket of the SFEP (Syndicat Français des Experts Professionnels en Oeuvres d’Art et Objets de Collection).

On July 11, the CNE issued a statement on the withdrawal saying it considers that the management of the SNA has always “respected its independence” but that, unfortunately, the SNA has made choices, especially in the selection of exhibitors, which “does not seem in line with the mission that was entrusted to us in 2017”. As a consequence, it said it was leaving the co-chairmanship of the committee with regret.

In a statement on July 12 the SNA said that the hundred or so experts that ensure the vetting of the Biennale, who come largely from the CNE and the SFEP, would continue to do their job next September.

It added that, while Maket has stepped down as chairman, he will continue to serve on the Biennale vetting committee.

Turner ‘Walton Bridges’ stays in UK

JMW Turner’s oil painting Walton Bridges which sold at Sotheby’s in July 2018 has been acquired by Norfolk Museums Service.


JMW Turner’s oil painting ‘Walton Bridges’ which sold at Sotheby’s in July last year has been bought for the nation.

At the sale it was won by an overseas buyer for a premium-inclusive £3.37m but was then the subject of a temporary export block.

Fundraising efforts in Norfolk were aided by grants from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Art Fund and a private donor. Together they raised the necessary £2.32m – the difference between this sum and the auction price ref lecting “a complex calculation regarding fees and taxes through the original sale going abroad”, according to a spokesperson for Norfolk Museums Service.

Trade body starts ‘apprentice’ status

LAPADA, The Association of Art & Antiques Dealers, has launched a new ‘apprentice’ membership category for dealers in early years of independent trading. These members (LAPADA’s first new admission category since 2006) will have access to the full benefits of the trade association for an annual tiered fee over a fixed term of three years, after which they are eligible for full LAPADA membership.

Participants will also be matched with a ‘mentor’ member and have access to discounted professional services and products, educational resources and networking and training events.

An apprentice members stand at the annual LAPADA fair will provide a chance to exhibit.

Boba Fett blasts to new Star Wars high

An auction record for a Star Wars toy was established on July 11 when Hake’s Auctions of York, Pennsylvania, sold a rocket-firing Boba Fett action figure for $95,700/£76,600 (plus 18% buyer’s premium).

The prototype figure, intended as part of Kenner’s licensed toy line for The Empire Strikes Back, was displayed at the 1979 Toy Fair in New York but never made it into mass production.

While some speculate that the toy (this one with an L-slot mechanism) was pulled after concerns the red plastic rocket was a safety hazard, many Star Wars scholars have concluded it was more likely shelved due to a production or cost issue.

Marlborough jewel takes £62,000

A sapphire intaglio ring identified as one of the lost Marlborough gems was bid to £62,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury on July 18.


A sapphire intaglio ring sold for £62,000 at Woolley & Wallis on July 18.

As reported in last week’s ATG (No 2401), the jewel carved with the bust of Julius Caesar was re-catalogued at the eleventh hour as a Renaissance period gem from the renowned collection formed by George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough (1739-1817).

It had previously belonged to the courtier and grand tourist Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel (1585-1646) – one of the first Englishmen to collect classical sculpture and gems.

Although the whereabouts of the gem was unknown, an impression survived in the Beazley archive in Oxford. It had sold for 30 guineas when Christie’s sold the Marlborough gems in 1899.

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3 Sapphire intaglio ring identified as one of the long-lost Marlborough gems

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In Numbers


The number of vintage comics consigned for sale to Newcastle-upon-Tyne auction house Anderson & Garland.

The group, to be sold across two sales (the first on July 25-26), comes from three different collections. Specialist John Bullock-Anderson has described the sale, that includes this battered copy of Amazing Fantasy No 15 featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man (estimate £5000-8000), as a career highlight.


A copy of ‘Amazing Fantasy' No 15, featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man’. Estimated at £5000-8000, it is one of 130,000 consigned to Anderson & Garland.