The salesroom highlights of 2016: part 1
Auction houses offered it all in 2016, for every taste and budget. Here's part one of our pick of the highlights and best buys from the past year...
20TH-CENTURY WALL ART
Buyers picked up on lesser-known artists by tapping into dealers like Harry Moore-Gwyn, who runs twice-yearly auctions at 25 Blythe Road. ‘Alfred Daniels [1924–2015] painted quirky and idiosyncratic views of post-war London, with wonderful evocations of a changing city in that era, and is an underrated figure in this booming period of British Art,’ says Moore-Gwyn. Daniels has a strong collector base and Spring Comes to Alexandra Park, c1958, sold for £1,400 (est £800–£1,200).
20TH-CENTURY WALL ART
If you read our Auction Focus on affordable art in H&A’s October 2016 issue, you’ll remember fine art expert Philip Mould’s advice on buying for investment. His top tip was the artist Cedric Morris (teacher of Lucian Freud) whose works are still just about affordable. Morris’s Easter Bouquet sold at Sworders’ new Modern British Art sale last January for £49,000 (est £20,000–£30,000).
20TH-CENTURY WALL ART
Photography was a boom area, with Sotheby’s and Christie’s offering images by top names such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Brassaï. Versions of this image, Charis, Santa Monica, 1936, by the revered American photographer Edward Weston, have sold for over £400,000, but this one, part of a portfolio printed in 1951, was less valuable, making $27,500 (est $30,000–$50,000) at Sotheby’s New York in April.
For relatively affordable investment pieces, you couldn’t do much better than 20th-century glass by Lalique. This set of Lalique menu holders, c1924, sold for £6,250 (est £1,000–£1,500) at Christie’s Lalique sale in February. Says senior specialist Joy McCall: ‘Sets don’t often appear, plus it was in the original box with the gilt printed Lalique mark.’
After a lull in demand, late 18th-century English porcelain saw a resurgence in popularity again. This set of Derby figures from the ‘Four Quarters of the Globe’ series, c1760, made £4,600 (est £1,500–£2,000) at Woolley & Wallis in September. ‘We’re seeing a marked trend towards interest in the earlier years of 18th-century English porcelain factories,’ says specialist Clare Durham. The long-overlooked pottery Toby jugs were making good money too.
Art deco figures
While the art deco style fluctuates in popularity, enamelled bronze and ivory figures are always a good bet,’ says Guy Schooling of Sworders. And the best, such as this Harlequin dancer by the Austrian artist, Theodor Ullmann, always make higher-than-average prices. Mounted on an alabaster plinth, the figure fetched £6,200 (est £2,000–£3,000) at Sworders in February.
This rare 1950s ‘half-giant’ table lighter from the Dunhill ‘Aquarium’ range, hand-decorated with a goose on one side and a swan on the other, fetched a whopping £7,400 (est £600–£800) at Lawrences in May last year. ‘Geese are an unusual subject for an “Aquarium” lighter and the design was very decorative,’ comments 19th and 20th century specialist Simon Jones.
Modern first editions
There was a burgeoning market for first editions by collectable authors from the Fifties and Sixties, reports specialist Susanna Winters at Dominic Winter Auctions. ‘Obvious names to look out for include Ian Fleming, Iris Murdoch, HE Bates, William Golding and JRR Tolkien. Not forgetting the sci-fi genre which took off then too – with writers like JG Ballard and John Wyndham among them.’ Children’s books proved popular too and this 1945 first edition of the Rev W Awdry’s ‘Railway Series’, The Three Railway Engines, made £1,600 (est £400–£600).
They’re small, fun, and associated with the renewed interest in sewing. Novelty pincushions from the late 19th and early 20th centuries come in all shapes and sizes, from camels and rabbits to pigs and frogs. This Edwardian porcupine, made in Birmingham in 1905 by Levi and Salaman, sold for £280 (est £200–£300) at Woolley & Wallis in July.
As we wave goodbye to 2016, one thing we can say with certainty is that the auction world is as lively as ever. Where else can you trawl through items that once belonged to David Bowie (Sotheby’s), the Reagans (Christie’s) or Maureen O’Hara (Bonhams)? You can even place a bid on them.
In the January issue of Homes & Antiques we published our list of the salesroom highlights of 2016. In part one, uncover the finest wall art, decorative antiques and small collectables - from striking 20th-century photographs to dainty porcupine pincushions.