■ Christie’s employees return from the Christmas break to find that Christopher Davidge has left after 10 years as CEO. Edward Dolman is now in charge. The significance of his departure only becomes clear when it emerges that Christie’s had colluded with Sotheby’s over pricing and had admitted the offence to gain a degree of immunity from prosecution.
■ Sothebys.com is launched in a $40m joint venture with Amazon featuring an initial 5000 lots online drawn from Sotheby’s vendors and 400 dealer ‘associates’. They are bullish about attracting the untapped millions with money to buy online.
■ Bonhams merges with classic car auction house Brooks. The majority shareholders are Dutch industrialist Evert Louwman and Robert Brooks, who becomes chairman. Nicholas Bonham is vice chairman, Christopher Elwes CEO and Malcolm Barber COO.
■ At the first British Antiques and Collectables Awards ceremony, held at Grosvenor House, Henry Sandon is named Antiques Personality of the Year. “I was never interested in antiques until I met my wife,“ he quips.
■ Mark Poltimore leaves Christie’s for internet start-up eAuctionRoom.com.
■ Sotheby’s announces it will open a new middle-market saleroom at Olympia next year.
● The much-feared Y2K computer crisis proves to be a damp squib. ● On stock markets the dotcom bubble peaks and bursts.
● Tate Modern opens.
■ Auction house Phillips merges with private treaty sale specialist de Pury & Luxembourg.
■ Sotheby’s announces 165 redundancies following heavy fines for price fixing.
■ Restriction on movement because of foot and mouth affects auctions and fairs across the UK well into the summer.
■ Alfred Taubman and Sir Anthony Tennant, chairmen of Sotheby’s and Christie’s in the 1990s, are charged in the US with criminal conspiracy to fix rates of commission “worth at least $400m”.
■ Bonhams & Brooks announces it will take over Phillips de Pury Luxembourg. When the deal goes through in November Robert Brooks is at the head of a network of salerooms (including four in London) with 750 employees and a turnover of £150m.
■ Many dotcom auction start-ups fall by the wayside. Among the casualties is QXL, the valuation site led by former Antiques Roadshow host Hugh Scully.
■ 9/11 leads to wholesale disruptions of sales and fairs in Manhattan. US buyers stop flying to the UK, causing difficult times for many antiques dealers.
■ Victoria Borwick, popular organiser of the Olympia antiques fairs for 11 years, is dismissed as new owner Andrew Morris pushes through his vision.
■ Malcolm Hord is to retire as CEO of LAPADA. He has played a leading role in modernising the association and fostering cooperation with other trade bodies.
■ Sotheby’s stages the first sale by a foreign auction house in France.
● 3000 die in terror attacks in the US. ● 10 million sheep and cattle are slaughtered in UK to combat foot and mouth disease.
■ A new firm, The Fine Art Auction Group, says that it wants to invest in a network of English provincial auction houses. It currently owns three and hopes to acquire eight by the year end.
■ Tim Hirsch leads a management buy-out of Spink from Christie’s.
■ Drastic cuts in teaching staff and funding at Southampton Institute cause concerns over the future of the Fine Art Valuation degree course, which is seen as crucial to the future of the UK antiques business.
■ Alfred Taubman receives a jail sentence for his part in the Christie’s/Sotheby’s collusion scandal. Sir Anthony Tennant of Christie’s refuses to stand trial in New York but is forced to resign as chairman of the Royal Academy. Sotheby’s CEO Dede Brooks avoids a jail sentence by co-operating with the authorities but must wear an electronic tag for six months.
■ Appeals are rejected and the 78-year-old Taubman starts his jail sentence.
■ Bonhams buys California auction house Butterfields from eBay and announces plans to restructure its London salerooms.
■ eBay acquires online payment specialist PayPal.
■ The Trade mourns three major figures – Tom Devenish, 84, Charles Traylen, 96, and Michael Koopman, 56.
● The euro is launched.
● Queen Mother dies.
● 50% of the UK now has internet access.
■ Now in colour, ATG is voted Special Interest Newspaper of the Year at the Newspaper Awards.
■ Cora Ginsburg, an iconic figure in the US trade, dies aged 92.
■ For the first time in 34 years the Antique Collectors’ Club annual index shows house price gains outstripping antique furniture as prices dip. The furniture index will continue to drop for the next nine years.
■ Sotheby’s calls an end to its ambitious but very costly internet auction operation. There will be no more separate online sales and it will no longer offer goods on behalf of dealer and auctioneer ‘associates’. At its height, 1500 dealers had signed up, but sales were largely disappointing.
■ 100 gold boxes are stolen from Waddesdon Manor in a spate of thefts from country houses.
■ The first Frieze art fair is held in Regent’s Park. The contemporary art in a tent formula is an immediate hit with the press and public.
■ A new biennial fair, Le Salon du Collectioneur, is launched in Paris
■ Berkshire auction house Dreweatt Neate becomes the latest and largest addition to the rapidly expanding Fine Art Auction Group. The move will double the turnover of the group, which has acquired six salerooms across the country in the last two years.
■ Leslie Hindman opens a traditional auction house in Chicago, five years after selling her business there to Sotheby’s. In the interim she has hosted two cable TV shows and launched and folded an online appraisal scheme.
● The second Iraq War begins.
● SARS causes more than 700 deaths.
● Concorde makes its final flight.
■ The Badminton Cabinet, sold for £7.8m in 1990, makes a new record £17m at Christie’s.
■ The collapse of a subsidiary of car auction house Coys leaves numerous vendors out of pocket and highlights the need for ring-fenced client accounts.
■ Masked gunmen steal Munch’s
The Scream and Madonna.
■ Raffety & Walwyn takes over Strike One, the clock dealership established in Camden Passage in 1968.
■ A blaze at Momart’s London warehouse destroys around £40m of art, including important Contemporary and Modern pictures.
■ Petworth dealer Nicholas Shaw is terrorised by violent raiders who slash police car tyres and rip the security grilles from his shop before making off with 400 items of silver.
■ Bonhams sets up separate client trust accounts for vendors to protect their money during the sale process.
■ Compensation claimants in the Christie’s/ Sotheby’s collusion case face further delays. No cheques will be issued until every claim is validated, say the lawyers.
■ Nicholas Bonham leaves Bonhams. It is the first time there has been no family member on the board in the firm’s 211-year history.
■ London furniture dealer Stair & Co closes after 93 years in the West End. Quaritch is sold to Malaysian businessman John Koh.
■ In Paris the colourful Jacques Tajan quits the auction firm he founded in 1994.
Meanwhile elsewhere: ● Facebook founded. ● A tsunami in the Indian Ocean lays waste to surrounding coastlines, killing over 200,000.
■ After 10 years in the role, Lord Brooke steps down as president of the BADA. He is succeeded by Baroness Rawlings.
■ Clarion Events, the management buy-out team now running the Olympia antiques fairs, announces an ambitous five-year plan to take the summer fair upmarket. It promises to halve the number of stands by 2010 and introduce luxury goods retailers.
■ Sheikh Al-Thani of Qatar is arrested after a lavish eight-year spending spree that has helped to bolster the art market.
■ The Southampton Institute announces that it will be suspending admissions to its Fine Arts Valuation degree course until at least October 2006 in order to review and modernise the syllabus. In practice this marks the end of the main academic route for entry into the auction profession since 1993.
■ Arms and armour specialist Thomas Del Mar becomes the latest Sotheby’s expert to set up an independent business under the wing of Sotheby’s. He follows Kerry Taylor (costume and fashion), Graham Budd (sporting memorabila) and Morton & Eden (coins and medals).
■ Claimants in the Christie’s/Sotheby’s collusion case finally begin to receive payments.
● 52 killed and 700 injured by suicide bombers on the London public transport.
● Museum of Art Fakes opens in Vienna.
● YouTube is launched.
■ Artist’s Resale Right takes effect in the UK in February, though for the moment it applies only to living artists. Auctioneers and dealers try to work out how they will administer this new scheme.
■ Art and antiques worth £30m are stolen from Ramsbury Manor, home of Harry Hyams.
■ ATG hosts its first online auction with live bidding and audio feed at Dreweatt Neate via thesaleroom.com. “Within a year this set-up will pretty well replace the present practice of bidding by telephone,” predicts The Sunday Times.
■ BADA announces it will stage a new winter antiques fair at Sotheby’s in New York. US dealers object to the competition and some UK dealers bridle at the venue. Within two months the plan is shelved.
■ Sotheby’s buys the gallery and stock of Dutch Old Master dealer Robert Noortman, one of the founders of the Maastricht fair. The fair organisers find they will be powerless to stop Sotheby’s attending next year’s event and controversy deepens when Christie’s demands to be included too.
■ Christie’s holds its first sale with live online bidding in New York. Christie’sLIVE will now be rolled out around the world.
■ Atlantic Properties sells Antiquarius and The Mall, two of London’s leading antiques centres.
■ Stolen Edvard Munch paintings The
Scream and Madonna are recovered.
■ By the end of the year it is reported that the Artists’ Resale Right has raised £1m during its first 12 months in operation.
■ Irish auction houses report big increases in turnover for the year on the back of big art sales fuelled by the ‘Celtic tiger’ economy. In Dublin Adam’s figures are up 91% to £12.4m.
● Twitter is launched.
● Heatwave hits UK and Europe.
● Pluto is demoted to dwarf planet.
■ Robert Noortman dies. Having acquired his business, Sotheby’s must now rethink its strategy as an art dealer.
■ Christie’s acquires Contemporary dealership Haunch of Venison.
■ The rise in value of Contemporary art continues unabated. In May sales total $868m (£434m) in New York and in June £220m in London, three times the previous year’s total.
■ Christie’s and Sotheby’s move away from the antiques market, raising their buyer’s premium to the once unthinkable level of 25% for lots under £10,000 and setting minimum lot values of £3000-5000.
■ Sotheby’s announces that its middle-market Olympia saleroom will close by the end of the year.
■ Duke’s of Dorchester sells two Fra Angelicos for £1.7m and Moore, Allen & Innocent takes a surprise £2.2m for a Rembrandt self-portrait.
■ Christie’s planned sale of the contents of Dumfries House is called off as Prince Charles leads a £45m package to save it for the nation.
■ Bonhams marks the end of an era with a three-day sale of the residual contents of the Savoy Hotel prior to refurbishment.
Meanwhile elsewhere: ● Heavy flooding causes summer chaos across central and westen England. ● Smoking is banned in enclosed public spaces.
■ Works by Banksy and other street artists come to the saleroom as Bonhams launches sales of Urban Art.
■ Christie’s South Kensington, once a favourite of dealers buying for stock, introduces Interiors sales aimed at the retail market.
■ TEFAF Maastricht launches Showcase, a one-off chance for up-and-coming dealers to exhibit at the the top international fair.
■ after 37 years on traditional newsprint, ATG is now in full-colour gloss.
■ eBay abandons its Live Auctions platform providing internet bidding to traditional auction houses.
■ Agnews sells its historic Bond Street premises and says it will move its focus from Old Masters to Contemporary art.
■ London dealer John Hobbs resigns from the BADA after reports that he sold furniture largely created by his restorer Dennis Buggins.
■ Elaine Dean retires after 25 years as secretary general of the BADA. Mark Dodgson, her long-time assistant, takes over.
■ London dealers in English furniture Jeremy and Hotspur both close.
■ Dealers react angrily as Christie’s tighten up on credit terms which allowed the Trade to collect items and pay for them later.
■ The crash hits the Impressionist and Contemporary sales in London and New York. Once more the big auction houses plan major cuts.
● The fall of Lehman Brothers triggers a global financial crisis.
● Barack Obama elected US president.
● Woolworths closes its 800 UK stores.
■ Christopher Wood, art dealer and author, dies.
■ The world’s oldest antiques fair is axed. The proprietors of the hotel say that the Grosvenor House antiques fair will not be staged next year as they can make more money from other events. Ironically this year’s 75th anniversary fair was the most successful in years… for the dealers.
■ Partridge Fine Art, one of London’s best-known antiques dealerships, goes into receivership, three years after being taken over from the founding family by a consortium led by Mark Law.
■ Serial forger Peter Ashley-Russell is jailed for faking antique silver using hallmark punches of his own manufacture. The scale of his operation causes widespread concern. He was sentenced for similar offences in 1986.
■ Buying by Chinese nationals becomes a major force at auctions around the world. Catalogues on the internet and a desire to buy back heritage bring spectacular prices.
■ Buckinghamshire dealer Nigel Worboys launches Antiques Are Green, a campaign to promote antique-buying as the most stylish form of recycling.
■ LAPADA fulfils a longstanding ambition to create a showcase for the association in a top London venue by launching a new fair in a marquee in Berkeley Square, Mayfair. The event is praised for its style and buzz.
■ Police swoop on the Hôtel Drouot saleroom in Paris, making nine arrests for alleged theft and collusion among staff.
● January snow brings Britain to a halt.
● The bitcoin network is created.