30 SEMINAL SALES
In celebration of H& A’s 300th issue, CAROLINE WHEATER selects the stellar lots that have broken records and set auction trends since the magazine launched in 1993
Wallis Simpson’s prized 1940s "amingo brooch sold for £1,721,250 at Sotheby’s in 2010
Since its launch 24 years ago, H&A has covered the auction world every month in one way or another, and has reported on countless wonderful tales of history and origin. The market is as thriving and as exciting as ever, with live sales providing an unbeatable sense of theatre for buyers, and more people than ever able to access them online. But as fashions have changed, so auctions have evolved and the things we’re now seeking are di erent.
‘Back in 1993, the market was very traditional,’ recalls Harvey Cammell, deputy chairman of Bonhams UK. ‘ The English country house look was very strong, and Old Master paintings, 19th- century prints and fine antique furniture were all popular. While we still have all these wonderful specialist departments at Bonhams, buyers have become more selective, hunting for pieces with provenance and rarity. The trend for minimalism has also had an impact, but house contents sales, such as Glyn Cywarch [see the feature in H&A’s October issue] and Trelissick, have bucked the trend and still do very well. Buyers like the stories of the respective families, the centuries of history associated with the collections.’
Buyers love celebrity, too. ‘ There’s a magic about a famous actor or singer’s collection coming up for sale; it’s almost as though you can touch the person through their things,’ says Christie’s creative consultant, Meredith Etherington- Smith, who was involved in cataloguing sales from the estates of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. Auctions are about things, but they’re also about us and our history, which is why we keep coming back for more.