It’s a bear mar­ket

COL­LECT­ING: From clas­si­cal to kitsch... John Vin­cent re­ports on one man’s cu­ri­ous twin pas­sions, re­flected in an amaz­ing auc­tion.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Homes&garden -

HAVE seen some im­pres­sive and idio­syn­cratic col­lec­tions go un­der the ham­mer dur­ing nearly quar­ter of a cen­tury as a sale­room cor­re­spon­dent, but never any­thing quite like the one as­sem­bled by an art-lov­ing Euro­pean mul­ti­mil­lion­aire with a pas­sion for bears... and skulls.

First, the bears. Not ted­dies, mind you – there was only one (a Steiff, nat­u­rally) among the hun­dreds of bear-re­lated items sold at Sotheby’s in Lon­don af­ter be­ing tracked down over 40 years by the un­named Euro­pean busi­ness­man.

While trav­el­ling all over the world he bought ev­ery pos­si­ble bear-themed item he could lay his hands on – from honey jugs to hat-stands, mu­sic boxes to mir­rors, tof­fee tins to teapots and clocks to cock­tail shak­ers, all made of any­thing from porce­lain to plas­tic. A papier maché po­lar bear dis­play stand for Fox’s Glacier Mints, an 18th cen­tury Ger­man bear muzzle, an 8ft tall feath­ered po­lar bear and an Ital­ian “Bear Hunt” ar­cade shoot­ing game all vied for at­ten­tion with spec­tac­u­lar bronzes, North Amer­i­can arte­facts and ex­pen­sive ce­ram­ics.

He bought any­thing from any­where, re­gard­less of cost, style, age, prove­nance or ma­te­rial. One lit­tle wooden knick-knack (a sim­ple toy woods­man and bear) fetched £38, while at the other end of the scale a stunning porce­lain piece by Ital­ian Felice Tos­alli of a glam­orous blonde danc­ing with a brown bear went for £269,000.

And now to skulls – one of the more cu­ri­ous and macabre col­lect­ing hob­bies. They adorned opium pipe heads, scent flasks, snuff boxes, cuff­links, stick pins, poi­son bot­tles, jew­ellery, tankards, ta­ble lamps, vesta cases, walk­ing sticks and book­ends. There was even a nov­elty Chi­nese dia­manté skull tele­phone (which went for £125).

The mys­tery rover with ex­traor­di­nar­ily deep pock­ets also found time to build up a matchless col­lec­tion of ma­jor works by the pi­o­neers of post-war and con­tem­po­rary art, in­clud­ing Ger­hard Richter, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Jeff Koons, Lu­cio Fon­tana, Damien Hirst and

TOO MUCH TO BEAR: A 1900 poster show­ing a raid on a fam­ily’s pic­nic (£525).

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