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Conservators at Plowden & Smith. The condition report services provided by the firm have experienced increased demand since March last year.

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The growth in remote bidding, online-only auctions and more buyers staying at home has boosted demand for third-party assessment of auction lots.

Specialist art and antiques restoration services Plowden & Smith recorded a 30% rise in requests for condition reports between March-December 2020 compared to the previous year.

The firm has launched a new branded product called SmARTreport with prices starting at £250.

Camilla Hughes-Hunt, managing director at Plowden & Smith, said: “Although we have definitely seen a spike during lockdown restrictions, we expect demand to remain steady for various reasons.

“For one thing, this was already a popular service before Covid-19 and in an increasingly cautious art market, an independent condition report from a specialist conservator offers reassurance to buyers and bidders.”

Operating in lockdown

Plowden & Smith’s team will travel to auction houses and view items on behalf of clients. Even during lockdowns, when salerooms have been closed to the public, its team has been able to operate and said it “had no issue gaining in-person access to objects”.

The typical turnaround for a report is the same or next day and the pricing depends on the time and travel costs, number of items and size, and complexity of the artwork.

The firm has specialists overseas and has a thriving market in the Middle East with a conservation specialist based permanently in the UAE.