■ Dealers warn the government that imposition of VAT on antiques – a possible result of entry into the Common Market in 1972 – will kill London’s prime position in the international art market. The debate rumbles on in the pages of ATG for many months.
■ Richard Dennis holds the first major exhibition of Doulton art pottery.
■ Antiquarian Securities, an art investment company, buys antiquarian book dealership Bernard Quaritch, responding to the sharp rise in market value of rare books.
■ Sotheby’s Belgravia saleroom opens in October, specialising in Victorian paintings; 19th and early 20th century furniture, ceramics and silver; and collectables.
■ Sotheby’s launches its own brand of Special Reserve cigarettes. Two board directors resign in protest.
■ Christie’s opens an office in Düsseldorf headed by Dr Geza von Habsburg, becoming the first foreign auction house to be granted permission to hold sales in Germany.
■ A world record auction price for Gallé is set at Sotheby’s Belgravia on November 3 with £2300 for a 1900 marqueterie de verre vase.
■ Debenham Coe, established auction house of railway memorabilia, begins specialised sales of cigarette cards.
■ The UK exports £56m of art and antiques, with the US accounting for more than half of the total.
● Decimal coinage is introduced in the UK.
● Hot pants are the height of fashion.
● Margaret Thatcher abolishes free school milk.
■ Dealers and auctioneers trade on bravely through the power cuts, some salerooms introducing verbal bidding to overcome the difficulty of spotting a raised catalogue in the gloom. The Hampstead Antique Emporium complains that it is having to use antique oil lamps instead of selling them.
■ Sotheby’s sells the contents of the Countess of Dysart’s Stobo Castle, Peeblesshire.
■ Scotland’s first antiques supermarket opens in Hanover Street, Edinburgh.
■ Christie’s strengthens its European operations with a single-owner sale of furniture, pictures and ceramics in Rome, and Continental ceramics in Geneva.
■ Christopher Weston is appointed chairman of Phillips.
■ Eskenazi pays £14,000 at Sotheby’s for 12 inro by Komo Kwansai II and Masaharu depicting the signs of the zodiac.
■ Christie’s first Victorian Week in King Street totals £395,000, including a record £31,500 for Millais’ A Huguenot.
■ A groundbreaking sale of Art Deco at Hôtel Drouot includes Fr150,000 (£12,710) for a Marcel Coard canapé.
■ Sotheby’s introduces auction guarantees: a scheme to give vendors a fixed reserve price whatever the lot reaches in the saleroom.
● School leaving age raised from 15 to 16 in England and Wales.
● Bloody Sunday in Ulster.
● UK unemployment tops 1m.
■ Chaos and confusion reign in the Trade over the imposition of 10% VAT on antiques. Dealers can choose to pay 10% on their profit margin or add 10% to the selling price. Antiques Trade Gazette introduces the Special Scheme Stock Book to help dealers cope with the paperwork.
■ Sotheby’s Belgravia is the first London saleroom to publish estimates.
■ The Court of Appeal rules that the original owner of stolen goods cannot recover them if they were sold in ‘market overt’ – any regularly established market, or in the City of London – in the hours of daylight.
■ The Fine Art Society opens a gallery in Edinburgh, the first time a major London gallery has opened a Scottish branch.
■ Bluett & Sons invites sealed bids for the Garner Collection of Oriental ceramics. At previous selling exhibitions, Far Eastern dealers had queued all night and there were near punch-ups as they scrambled to buy the goods.
■ All the major London salerooms report record turnover figures as buyers rush into antiques in the face of high inflation and a depressed stock market.
■ Roy Strong is appointed director of the V&A.
■ Christie’s floats on the Stock Exchange. The company made a £1m profit in 1972. Dealing starts at 76p, a premium of 6p.
■ A painting of a prize cow by JR Hobart makes £600 at Charles Boardman of Clare, going to the London trade.
● Britain goes on a three-day week. ● There are fears of petrol rationing as the oil price soars.
■ The oil crisis and three-day week hit the Trade. Sotheby’s Belgravia opens the season with a successful Victorian prints sale – by gaslight.
■ Phillips acquires Knowle, the Warwickshire auction house, in a drive to capture business in the Midlands.
■ Harold Wilson’s Labour government comes back to power; the miners go back to work; the five-day week returns.
■ International competition between Sotheby’s and Christie’s hots up as Sotheby’s buys Amsterdam auctioneer Mak van Waay. Christie’s announces its intention of holding sales in Amsterdam.
■ Lampa Securities buys furniture dealer H Blairman & Sons, evidence of an increasing City obsession with investment in art. The company is to pull out after only one year.
■ Labour’s proposals for a wealth tax on works of art cause consternation in the trade and among heritage bodies.
■ The Portuguese Revolution hits Britain’s lucrative antiques trade with that country as the military junta bans import of luxury goods.
■ Lord Denning rules that a ‘wrong’ Rembrandt bought at Sotheby’s must be paid for as it is not a forgery, just wrongly attributed.
■ Christie’s buys auction house Debenham Coe, which becomes Christie’s South Kensington.
● Lord Lucan disappears. ● Inflation soars. ● Nixon resigns.
■ The British Rail Pension Fund announces that it will invest some of its funds in art, advised by Sotheby’s. The move is much criticised in the trade and the City as well as by the ASLEF union.
■ A Cayman Islands company, Middle East Fine Art Investment, whose directors include Sir Geoffrey Agnew, is set up to invest $25m of Arab money in fine art. Art purchased is stored in Swiss vaults.
■ A Qajar painting of Fath’ Ali Shah’s sons and grandsons makes £200,000 at Sotheby’s, a world record price for a Persian work of art.
■ CITES, a treaty to protect endangered species, takes effect.
■ Sotheby’s and Christie’s – to general uproar – announce the imposition of a 10% buyer’s commission in the autumn. Bonhams and Bearne’s follow suit. Phillips holds out.
■ A successful new middle-market London fair, owned by Earls Court and Olympia, takes place at Earls Court.
■ Groups of dealers stage walk-outs from sales as the buyer’s premium is introduced in London. Trade associations call emergency meetings but decide against a general boycott of auctions by the Trade.
■ Hugh Jenkins, minister for the arts, calls art dealers ‘Super Spivs’.
■ Pictura ‘75, the first Maastricht fair, makes an impressive debut, with the emphasis on 19th century Dutch paintings and Old Masters. Richard Green and Leger are among the British dealers taking part.
Meanwhile elsewhere: ● Dutch elm disease sweeps through Britain. ● Saigon falls as last Americans leave Vietnam. ● First oil flows from the North Sea.
■ Christie’s abandons the tradition of taking bids in guineas.
■ Trade protests over the buyer’s premium rumble on, but major auction houses show strong recovery thanks to staff reductions and income from the premium.
■ Phillips’ sale at Stonor Park, continuously occupied by the Stonor family for 900 years, totals £152,845. The Victorian stuffed bird collection makes £13,000 and a 17th century tester bed £3300. Plans to sell the house itself are abandoned.
■ Paris auction houses move to temporary accommodation on the Left Bank after 200 years at the Hôtel Drouot.
■ Christie’s sells a Richard Wilson landscape with temple for £150,000, more than twice the previous auction record.
■ 32 lots of furniture from Harewood House total £40,000 at Christie’s. A Chippendale curved side table found in the estate carpenter’s workshop makes £8000, despite poor condition.
■ VAT on precious metals and jewellery is reduced from 25% to 12.5%.
■ Rumours surface of a number of fake Shoreham period Samuel Palmers on the market. Tom Keating admits that he painted them ‘as a protest against merchants who make capital out of artists’. The scandal fascinates the public and causes squabbles in the Trade.
■ The Royal Academy holds a major LS Lowry exhibition.
■ Phillips, enjoying a buoyant year, opens its new West 2 saleroom in Salem Street.
■ Christie’s sale at Clonbrook House, Ballinasloe, totals £278,000, with 100% of the lots sold.
Meanwhile elsewhere: ● Britain experiences its hottest summer in living memory. ● Concorde makes its first commercial flight.
■ The three-part Henri Vever sale of Japanese prints, books, drawings and paintings totals £1.8m at Sotheby’s as the sluggish Oriental market reawakens.
■ A Vincennes white chinoiserie group, c.1745, one of only two recorded, makes £38,000 at Christie’s.
■ Sotheby’s sells the contents of Mentmore, which descended to Lord Rosebery from Hannah Rothschild, after plans to give the house to the nation in lieu of death duties fail because of government intransigence. Superb ‘gout Rothschild’ French furniture, porcelain and works of art total £6.3m.
■ Christie’s introduces the buyer’s premium to New York despite dealer protests.
■ A Middle Eastern dealer pays £125,000 at Christie’s Geneva for an Imperial Russian Fabergé egg.
■ Tennants expands with a second saleroom in Richmond, Yorkshire.
■ Spending cuts force the V&A to close on Mondays.
■ Sotheby’s goes public at 150p per share. The shares, 25 times over-subscribed, open at a premium.
■ The Frank T Sabin gallery merges with Richard Green.
■ Paul Whitfield becomes managing director of Christie’s.
■ Art theft ranks second only to drug offences in world crime, a New York conference is told. A mere 5% of stolen items are recovered.
■ The extravagant rococo silver tureens designed by Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier 1734-36 for the 2nd Duke of Kingston sell for SFr2.45m (£612,500) at Christie’s Geneva to Swiss dealer Peter Zervudachi.
■ At the end of a buoyant year, Birmingham auction house Biddle & Webb’s turnover tops £1m. “Any firm of fine art auctioneers who are not able to announce a dramatic increase in turnover in 1977 must have been very unlucky or very apathetic,” says Mr Biddle.
● Pompidou Centre opens in Paris.
● Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee.
● First Star Wars film released.
● Elvis Presley dies.
■ London’s pre-eminence in the world art market could be under threat as Sotheby’s and Christie’s both reveal their turnover in New York doubled in 1977.
■ Andrew Weir, the insurance and shipping group, buys London’s oldest dealership Spink for £4.8m.
■ British Rail invests £7m a year in antiques.
■ The first complete copy of the Gutenberg Bible to be sold at auction for more than 20 years makes $2m (£1.1m) at Christie’s New York.
■ A Tabriz silk carpet makes SFr550,000 (£155,000), a world record price for a carpet, at Cornette de Saint-Cyr in Geneva.
■ European works of art, furniture, paintings and drawings from the Robert von Hirsch collection make £18.4m at Sotheby’s, the highest total ever for an auction. Auction records include £1.2m for a Mosan enamel and £200,000 for a marquetry commode by David Roentgen made for Augustus III.
■ Birmingham Art Gallery raises the funds to acquire its second Warwick Castle Canaletto after an export licence is withheld.
■ A number of John Constable paintings in the Tate Gallery and the V&A, acquired through the Constable family, are discovered to be the work of Constable’s son Lionel.
■ After three years, Phillips succumbs to commercial pressure and introduce a buyer’s premium in all salerooms. A significant number of country auction houses will follow.
■ Spink holds its first coin auction.
■ The Louvre des Antiquaires antique market opens in Paris.
■ Spencers’ sale of the contents of Shrelley Hall, Nottingham makes £498,000. Nine important sporting paintings by John Ferneley total £256,200.
● Pope John Paul dies after only 33 days in office.
● An industrial dispute closes The Times for almost a year.
■ In the struggle to compete for goods to sell, Sotheby’s introduces a buyer’s premium in New York.
■ In the UK, auction houses plan to pass on the new 8% VAT on buyer’s premium to the buyer. The Trade talks of mounting a challenge to the legality of the buyer’s premium.
■ Tom Keating goes on trial for forging Samuel Palmers. The trial is later abandoned owing to his ill-health.
■ BBC TV announces a new series: Antiques Roadshow featuring Arthur Negus and Bruce Parker.
■ The British Rail Pension Fund announces that it will spend £12m more on works of art, aiming for £40m of art holdings in its £750m portfolio.
■ The first Hong Kong fair, the Asian Antiques Fair, runs into vetting problems.
■ The Grosvenor House fair is abandoned after stand builders refuse to cross picket lines in the chambermaids’ strike.
■ The Sèvres Egyptian dessert service given by Josephine to Napoleon, and afterwards presented by Louis XVIII to the Duke of Wellington, is bought by the V&A for £450,000.
■ A syndicate comprising Agnew, Eugene Thaw and Artemis pays £150,000 for an Algardi bust at Christie’s sale at North Mymms Park. It is later acquired by Manchester City Art Gallery after an export ban prevents it going to the Metropolitan Museum in New York for £265,000.
■ Peter Wilson retires after 21 years as chairman of Sotheby’s.
■ There are now thought to be 6000 established dealers with shops in the UK.
● Margaret Thatcher becomes prime minister.
● Lord Mountbatten killed by IRA.
● Art historian Sir Anthony Blunt unmasked as a spy.