Western Morning News (Saturday)
High bidding for fine art
EVEN if you don’t regularly keep abreast of international auction news, many will have heard about the Botticelli painting sold at Sothebys New York last week for a staggering $92.2m, the highest price ever paid for the artist’s work.
Here in Cornwall, the local art market was breaking a few of its own records. David Lay Auctions in Penzance held their its sale of 2021, a hugely successful 650-lot, two-day, online-only Fine Art sale. By the time the final hammer fell on Friday evening, it had become the highest grossing sale this longstanding auctioneer had ever held, even overshadowing the heady days of the ‘80s antiques boom, when David sold the likes of Chippendale bookcases for £250,000.
As featured in these pages recently, the star lot was a beautiful nude study by Dame Laura Knight which carried an already punchy estimate of £60-80K, but on the day, two determined bidders slugged it out and drove the price up to an amazing £105,000.
Next came a particularly fabulous market scene by the much-loved Plymouth artist Beryl Cook. With a realistic estimate of £16,000-18,000, this was always going to be popular but it finally sold for an incredible £37,000.The sale continued to generate further extraordinary results. A dramatic telephone battle took place over a tiny maritime scene by the often-faked St Ives artist, Alfred Wallis. The work came with the all important ‘cast iron’ provenance, which David Lay thoroughly researched, discovering the work had been owned by the respected art collector George Dannatt. With that assurance in place, bidders had complete confidence to bid wildly, which they did, pushing way past the £13,000-15,000 estimate to a sale price of £28,500.
Other popular, well-collected Cornish artists sold well, £17,500 for a maritime work by Bryan Pearce was another notable result, Sir Terry Frost’s prints and original works were flying, as were the likes of Joan Gilchrest and Fred Yates.
The sale continued apace on the second day with non-Cornish art, further fantastic results and virtually no unsold lots. A striking military portrait by the Irish artist James Jebusa Shannon went to a telephone bidder for £7,000, whilst online bidders competed frantically to secure an affecting portrait of a young woman by the Jewish artist Abraham Soloman, which sold for £3,600.
Pulses were sent racing further, here and across the Atlantic, by a collection of three original 1940s Addams Family cartoons by Charles Addams, featuring everyone’s favourite characters, Lurch, Morticia, Pugsley and Wednesday et al. Although sold individually, they collectively made £20,000 and despite British buyers fighting valiantly to keep them, the cartoons will be winging their way back to the Addams Foundation in the USA. These were a surprise find during routine house call in Falmouth, which just goes to show that you never know what treasures might be lurking in your attic!
David Lay’s next sale will be its Asian Sale on February 18, which has beautiful 18th and 19th century Chinese jade carvings, netsuke and a whole host of valuable Asian and Islamic ceramics, rugs and other artefacts.
The regular, well attended Household Sales have now gone totally online as timed auctions. Further details at www.davidlay.co.uk