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It may have been only mid-week but at the biannual gathering of members and friends of the Society of Fine Art Auctioneers (SOFAA) quite enough had happened in the preceding days to keep the conversation going into the wee small hours.

As more than 150 people gathered at the Royal Thames Yacht Club in Knightsbridge on Wednesday, June 19, Sotheby’s purchase by a French billionaire (see front page), announced two days earlier, was a key topic of conversation.

Auctioneers travelled from far and wide to be there, with perhaps Lyon & Turnbull’s Edinburgh branch winning the prize for most miles travelled. Given the nippy temperatures outside, deputy chairman Paul Roberts and managing director Gavin Strang had sensibly eschewed kilts for tartan trousers.

Dreweatts vied for the most-staff-present award, while the antiques TV pundits were out in force too: we counted at least four BBC Antiques Roadshow presenters and two familar faces from Bargain Hunt.

Auctioneer pioneer

The auctioneering craft was in the spotlight, with guest speaker Dr Susanna Avery-Quash of the National Gallery encouraging guests to learn from pioneering auctioneer James Christie (1730-1803) for his “understanding of branding, unrivalled contacts book and pioneering approach to advertising”.

Meanwhile, CITES expert Kim McDonald of Taxidermy Law – in front of a roomful of his clients – was relieved of his ‘unsung hero’ status as he was awarded honorary membership of SOFAA.

It is a fine SOFAA dinner tradition that competitive instincts are set aside for the night, as staff from firms including Roseberys London, Sworders and Woolley & Wallis mingled happily.