The Most Revealing Art Auction Investigations – artmarketblog.com

The Most Revealing Art Auction Investigations – artmarketblog.com

Over the years many very interesting and revealing investigations into the inner workings of art auction houses have been conducted by journalists.  Having read most of the results of these investigations myself, I thought that it would be useful to provide a list of what I believe are the most informative and educational investigations to have been published in recent times.  If you are wondering at this point whether I hold some sort of grudge against art auction house then I can assure you that I don’t.  Most of the problems that have arisen with the art auction sector have originated from either one person or a small number of people who think that they are invincible and take things too far.

1. Halsey Minor, an internet tycoon and art collector, recently contacted me regarding a post I wrote on the sins committed by art auction houses.  Minor contacted me to inform me that he had recently launched an appeal against the summary judgement ruling in favor of Sotheby’s in their breach of contract action against him.  As well as informing me of the appeal, Halsey also provided me with a copy of the now publically available appellate brief for this case which you can view here:

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B8p8DAKg7zgqYjAyN2YwOGItNGY3My00YzNjLTkxMjEtZmI5NjdkMDQwYTBh&hl=en

You can also see the papers from the ruling in favour of Sotheby’s here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/29409086/Sothebys-v-Minor-Judgment

Although I cannot comment on the appeal  as it is still being processed, I would urge everyone to read both sides of the case and make up their own mind.

2. In 2008 an Australian television program called Four Corners conducted an investigation into the actions of several major Australian auction houses.  Below is a link to a very interesting interview with Paul Sumner, the owner of Australian art auction house Mossgreen:

http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2008/s2316296.htm

3. The biggest scandal to hit the art auction world was the commission fixing scandal involving Sotheby’s and Christie’s that surfaced in 2000.  See a particularly revealing investigation by the NY Times here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/08/us/secret-partners-unraveling-conspiracy-private-files-fuel-art-auction-inquiry.html?pagewanted=1

4. In 2004, Forbes magazine published an article titled ‘Dirty Secrets of the Auction Houses’ which is well worth taking a look at:

http://www.forbes.com/2004/07/09/cz_mr_0709soapbox.html

5. The Wall Street Journal published an interesting article in 2008 that looked into the way auction houses report their results:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122670620372529693.html

6. The Economist published a particularly insightful article in November that investigated several issues with the November 2010 Phillips De Pury ‘Carte Blanche’ sale:

http://www.economist.com/node/17551930

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

Do Art Auction Houses Camouflage Results? – artmarketblog.com

Do Art Auction Houses Camouflage Results? – artmarketblog.com

I received an email on December 2nd from one of Australia’s leading art auction houses, Menzies Art Brands, with the subject ‘Defamation Alleged’. The email read:

DEFAMATION ALLEGED

Menzies would like to bring to your attention this story on Page 10 of The Age newspaper today:

LEADING art auctioneer Rod Menzies has described as ”scurrilous” allegations made by Robert Le Tet and Rick Anderson about his business practices, in The Age yesterday.

Mr Menzies, an entrepreneur, cleaning business tycoon and owner of Menzies Art Brands, said he ”always honoured every deal” and was ”well known for carrying out every commitment and for his integrity”.

He said he observed the ”highest ethical standards” and denied suggestions to the contrary. He said in a statement that he had instructed his lawyers to start proceedings for defamation and damages claiming $38 million.

Enquiries
sydney@menziesartbrands.com

Before we continue, this is not the first time that allegations have been made regarding Menzies’ business practices. In 2008 complaints were made by other auction houses in Australia regarding Menzies’ alleged failure to adequately disclose details regarding guarantees provided by Menzies, as well as details regarding works being sold by Menzies that Menzies either owned or had a share in. Menzies denied the charges which were dropped in March of this year by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

This time around, Menzies is being accused of misleading reporting of art sales through his auction house. The accusations were aired in the Melbourne, Australia based newspaper ‘The Age’ where details of a transaction involving a painting by Brett Whiteley, one of Australia’s most famous and valuable artists, were questioned. According to The Age, the painting in question was reported by Menzies Art Brands as having been sold in Sydney on the 25th of March for A$1.44 million. Apparently, however, only two months later Mr. Menzies was offering the painting in question for sale privately through his company for A$1.25 million, which suggests that it wasn’t sold at all. It is then alleged that Mr. Menzies struck a deal with a collector, named as a Mr. Anderson, to swap the Whiteley painting, and another painting, for two paintings owned by the collector. The swap apparently took place in June of this year.

If this allegation wasn’t enough, ‘The Age’ alleges further issues regarding ownership of the Whiteley painting. Apparently a Melbourne financier launched a court case to retrieve the Whiteley painting, which he claims he owns because his company, Questco Pty Ltd. , loaned money to an art dealer to purchase the Whiteley painting – a dealer who is now having financial difficulties. The Melbourne financier apparently then asked Menzies to sell the painting through private treaty for A$1.25 million, but Menzies reneged on the deal a short time later. Menzies is being accused of then returning the painting to the dealer, not the financier, and purchasing it off the dealer for A$850,000. Mr. Menzies then put the painting up for sale in March of this year, which is where this story began. Menzies sought to retrieve the painting from Mr. Anderson whom he sold the painting to by private treaty and apparently even offered several other paintings in exchange which had also been reported as having been sold at auction. Mr. Anderson has so far declined to return the painting.

According to the article in ‘The Age’:

Mr Anderson claimed Mr Menzies has been ”ramping” up the art auction market, and he said it was in the public interest to know how the prominent auctioneer operated: ”He reported the Whiteley painting as sold and then he offered it to me for $200,000 less than what it was supposedly sold for at auction,”.

No charges have been laid against Mr. Menzies or his company and, as you can see from the email I was sent, Mr. Menzies strongly denies the allegations made against him and his company. The question of who is telling the truth will presumably come to light if the defamation case goes ahead.

The reason that I have alerted you to this case is that I have been on a bit of an art auction house crusade of late in an attempt to inform the public about what goes on behind the scenes and hopefully encourage the art auction houses to be more transparent and ethical with their dealings. With transparency being one of the biggest issues, I thought it was important to highlight this case even though none of the allegations have been confirmed as being true.  I will be doing a series on this issue as there are lots of allegations to cover.

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

The Art Auction House Sin Files – artmarketblog.com

The Art Auction House Sin Files – artmarketblog.com

Where does it all end? When will people realise that although the questionable practices exhibited by some auction houses are legal, they should not be tolerated? How far will art auction houses be able to go before someone steps in and says ENOUGH IS ENOUGH !! Let’s take a look at the history of sins committed, and those allegedly committed, by the big three art auction houses.

The most famous art auction house scandal took place in 2000 when Christie’s and Sotheby’s were dragged through the mud because of allegations that they had formed a “cartel” and were agreeing in advance to fix commission rates. The price-fixing scheme violated federal antitrust law by eliminating competitive choice and cost customers millions of dollars. Christie’s dobbed on Sotheby’s and were given immunity from prosecution for their information. Sotheby’s ended up taking most of the flak with several senior members getting the boot and two senior managers, A. Alfred Taubman and Dede Brooks, both getting jail sentences. Sotheby’s, Christie’s and their owners also paid a civil lawsuit settlement of $512 million.

In September of 2004, Forbes magazine reported that Christie’s were allegedly withholding information regarding the authenticity of objects from clients. These allegations were made by Canadian newspaper heiress Taylor Lynne Thomson who went on to sue Christie’s. According to Forbes magazine: “Thomson sued and British courts ruled in May that Christie’s had been too lax in its catalog description, leaving out qualifications to its classification of the urns as being “Louis XV.” The judge highlighted the auction specialists’ decision to remove the qualifying words “possibly Italian,” which would’ve raised the possibility of the urns being far less valuable 19th-century copies.”

Christie’s controversial purchase of the highly regarded gallery Haunch of Venison in 2007 caused a flurry of opinions, many of called the sale a conflict of interest and accused Christie’s of blurring the lines between what galleries and auction houses offer. Christie’s wasn’t the first auction house to purchase a gallery though as Sothebys also made a foray into the gallery world by purchasing Noortman Master Paintings in 2006.

In 2008, CNet founder Halsey Minor sued Sotheby’s for allegedly failing to fully declare when they had an ownership stake in works that they were selling. Sotheby’s won the case and were awarded $6.64 million in outstanding debts. Minor can appeal but, as far as I know, has yet to do so.

In February of this year Christie’s allegedly settled with a brother and sister who sued Christie’s for allegedly failing to identify a painting that they consigned to the auction house as being by Titian. The painting was sold for £8,000 by Christie’s in 1993 as a painting ‘from the school of Titian’. It was determined after the painting had been sold by Christie’s that it was in fact a genuine Titian which was worth in the region of 4 million pounds. The siblings claimed that Christie’s failed to competently research and advise on the painting’s value when it was sold in 1993.

In May of this year (2010), Jeanne Marchig, a Swiss animal philanthropist, launched a law suit against Christie’s for failing to identify a painting owned by Marchig, which was sold by Christie’s for $19,500 in 1998, as a painting by Leonardo worth upwards of 100 million pounds. Christie’s sold the painting as a mere ‘19th century German’ work for which Marchig is suing Christie’s for ‘wilful refusal and failure to investigate the plaintiff’s believed attribution, to comply with its fiduciary obligations, negligence, breach of warrant to attribute the drawing correctly, and making false statements in connection with the auction and sale’. Christie’s disagrees with the claims that the painting is a Leonardo. Reaching an outcome with this case is likely to take quite a while.

The most recent art auction scandal involves auction house Phillips de Pury and their ‘Carte Blanche’ sale which took place on November the 8th (2010). So many issues have been raised in relation to this auction that it would take a series of posts to explain them all so I will only mention the most serious allegations. To begin with, the so called “curator” of the auction, Philippe Ségalot, not only was directly responsible for negotiating and organising the consignment of works for the sale, but he also advised some of the buyers – a situation that could be seen as a serious conflict of interest. If this wasn’t enough of a conflict of interest, Segalot is reported to have bid on works himself presumably on behalf of his clients. There have also been several reports that the auctioneer on the night, Simon de Pury, failed to make it clear to the audience when works failed to sell, which auctioneers are legally required to do. By failing to announce the failure of a work to sell the auctioneer could be seen to be attempting to deceive the audience by inducing a false sense of success and excitement.

These are only a few of the more serious scandals that have arisen as a result of some questionable tactics and practices adopted by the world’s top art auction houses. Are these the sort of businesses that you want to business with? Would you trust such a company to treat you fairly and honestly? I have made it my mission to make art collectors and investors more aware of what is happening in the art auction world and hopefully at the same time encourage the art auction houses to be more honest, ethical and transparent. Stay tuned, there is more to come………

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

2010 Art Market Status Report – 2nd half – artmarketblog.com

2010 Art Market Status Report – 2nd half – artmarketblog.com

The art market has found its self in a rather interesting predicament.  On the one hand, confidence in the art market has increased considerably since the beginning of the year.  On the other hand, the ever increasing likelihood of a major financial crisis has seen more cautious and selective buying.  Adding to the drama is the increasingly obvious lack of top quality paintings by the Old Masters, which the market is currently showing a very healthy appetite for.

On the 13th of July an impression of Edvard Munch’s controversial work Madonna sold for an amazing £1,252,000 at Bonhams – twice its lower estimate of £500,000. This makes it the most expensive print ever sold in the UK and the second most expensive print in the world. At Bonham’s 19th Century Paintings sale held on the 22nd Apr 2010, ‘Female figure study’ , a drawing on paper by John Constable with a hidden history, sold for four times it pre-sale estimate to make £24,000. Also achieving success was an interesting  ‘Portrait of a Gentleman’ by George Dawe (British 1781-1829) which was the subject of fiercely competitive bidding and finally sold for £43,200 against a pre-sale estimate of £4,000-6,000.

At Christie’s Victorian & British Impressionist Pictures Including Drawings & Watercolours sale on the 16th of June,  Sir George Clausen’s ‘Head of a young girl (Rose Grimsdale)’ made £505,250 against an estimate of 250,000 – 350,000 setting a new world auction record for a work on paper by the artist. The same sale also saw a new record for Archibald Thorburn with yet another work on paper titled ‘Grouse in flight’ which made £217,250 against an estimate of 60,000 – 80,000

At Christie’s 23 June 2010 auction of Impressionist and Modern Art the top price was achieved by ‘Portrait of Angel Fernández de Soto’, 1903, a Blue Period masterpiece by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), which sold for £34,761,250 against an estimate of 30,000,000 – 40,000,000.  Another portrait titled ‘Frauenbildnis (Portrait of Ria Munk III)’, one of the last great female portraits painted by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), sold for £18,801,250 against an estimate of £14 million to £18 million.

Yet more portraits achieved high prices at Christie’s Old Masters & 19th Century Art sale held on the 9th of July at their South Kensington saleroom. Margaret Sarah Carpenter’s ‘Portrait of a young girl’, who is thought to be Henrietta Carpenter, reached £32,450 against an estimate of 7,000-10,000 and achieved a new world record price for the artist at auction. A work from the Studio of Sir Peter Lely titled ‘Portrait of King Charles II’ also fetched £32,450 against an estimate of 6,000-8,000.

Over at Sotheby’s the ‘An Exceptional Eye: A Private British Collection’ sale held on the 14th of July saw a watercolour over pencil by John Robert Cozens titled ‘The Lake of Albano and Castel Gandolfo’ reach £2,393,250 against an estimate of 500,000 ‐ 700,000 –  the top price of the sale and a new record for the artist at auction.  The portrait miniatures performed particularly well with the Sotheby’s press release stating that “a very high price achieved for an early work by John Smart (lot 17, £56,450), and a record for a work by Bernard Lens (lot 10, Portrait of King Charles I, sold for £58,850)”

At Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale held on the 22nd of June, the top price paid was again for a portrait.  Edouard Manet’s ‘Portrait de Manet par lui-même, en buste (Manet à la palette)’ fetched £22,441,250 against an estimate of £20,000,000-30,000,000 –  a record for the artist at auction. The top-selling lot of the June Russian Paintings Day Sale was Boris Grigoriev’s oil on canvas Portrait of the artist’s son, Kirill, which sold for the sum of £253,250, above its high estimate of £200,000.  Another portrait, Alexander Evgenievich Yakovlev’s ‘Titi and Naranghe, Daughters of Chief Eki Bondo’, took top spot at the 7 June Important Russian Art Sale selling for £2,505,250 – more than triple the £700,000 – 900,000 estimate .  Sotheby’s sale of the long-lost art trove of Ambroise Vollard saw more records set for works on paper held in Paris on the 29th of June. According to the Sotheby’s press release from the sale: “Key works among the highlights of the group were an extremely fine impression of Picasso’s celebrated 1904 etching ‘Le Repas frugal’ (another portrait), which more than doubled its high estimate of €300,000 to bring €720,750 (£584,078), the highest price of the sale. A monotype by Edgar Degas, ‘La Fête de la patronne’, circa 1878-79 soared past pre-sale estimates (€200,000-300,000) to bring €516,750. Paul Gauguin’s ‘Trois Têtes Tahitiennes ‘sold for €312,750 (£253,445) well above the estimate of €100,000 to €150,000 and a record was set for a print by Pierre-Auguste Renoir when ‘Le Chapeau Epinglé, Deuxième Planche’ more than tripled its high estimate of €80,000 to bring €252,750 (£204,822). Man Ray’s ‘Autoportrait solarié’ fetched €168,750 ($206,138)”

On the 2nd of June at Sotheby’s in London, in the sale of 19th Century European Paintings, one of the finest figure paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot ever to have appeared on the market was purchased by the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva for £1,609,250, exceeding its pre-sale high estimate of £1.2 million.  According to Sotheby’s “‘Jeune femme à la fontaine’ enjoyed an exceptional early provenance before it was requisitioned during the Nazi period, and was recently restituted to the heirs of its erstwhile owners.”

The results that I have highlighted above give a good indication of the current market sentiment and the market trends that are likely to define the market for the near future.  To start with, the popularity of portraits is a major indication that buyers are seeking the safety of the academic and the scholarly.  With portraits in particular, the level of skill and talent of the artist is pretty much immediately obvious to even the most untrained eye. When it comes to fine art, and portraits in particular, I do not think that people use the term craftsmanship to describe the work carried out by some artists.  To accurately portray the physical attributes and the personality of the sitter is, in my opinion, a craft that requires skill, training and a healthy dose of talent.  When one adds the historical value and importance of portraiture, the appeal of a famous (or not so famous) face from history to an investor becomes even more apparent.

I have spoken about the concept of fine art as a form of currency in previous posts.  If ever there was a type of art that was more suited to being used as a form of currency, it would have to be portraiture.   The number of common features that most portraits share, combined with the ease with which one can judge and value a portrait based on intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics, makes the portrait a prime candidate for an art world currency.  As I have said before, scholarship is the key to successful art investment, and successful wealth preservation using art for that matter.  Portraits are usually afforded the honour of in depth scrutiny and attention by scholars and academics because of the information that portraits can provide about various branches of history.  For this reason, among others, portraits are given the sort of long term continued attention that constantly adds value.

The second trend that I have alluded to is a greater interest in works on paper – in particular original drawings and watercolours.  I personally of the opinion that the increased popularity of watercolour paintings, particularly those by British artists, is due to the greater interest in the art of the Victorian era which was the golden age of British watercolour painting. Although original works on paper, such as drawings and watercolours, are often looked upon as the less valuable mediums in the scheme of things, the tide can change very quickly as it has recently.  As well as the revival of interest in Victorian art, a shortage of major works by the Old Masters and the Impressionists has driven buyers to seek the qualities that they are looking for in other mediums and periods. An article titled ‘Young masters in an old game’ from The Guardian newspaper written by John Windsor in November 2009 sums up the situation surrounding works on paper perfectly with the following statement: “Taste is shifting from new, ill-conceived conceptual art of the Brit-pack variety – costing thousands but faltering at auction, towards old, traditional skill-based art……. but you do need to develop an eye for quality – the easy, confident line of a master draughtsman, the luminosity of a watercolourist’s washes.” It is a shame that the watercolour painting is considered the poorer cousin of the oil painting because there are so many amazing watercolours by some of the world’s greatest artists that do not receive the exposure that they deserve.

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

The Rise of Victorian Art Pt. 7 – artmarketblog.com

The Rise of Victorian Art Pt. 7 – artmarketblog.com

The Music Lesson Frederic, Lord Leighton Oil on canvas 1877

This will be my last post on the rise of Victorian paintings as I believe that I have covered the period in more than enough detail. To finish off I would like to list the major problems with the market for Victorian paintings that has meant that progress has been slower than many people would like.

The major problems with the market for Victorian paintings are:

1. There are only a few active major collectors of Victorian paintings whose actions can have a major effect on market sentiment as well as people’s perception of the market for Victorian paintings.

2. A large number of second and third rate Victorian paintings exist on the market which has given the whole genre a bad name, and created a situation where people define the period by what are essentially paintings that do not reflect the true talent and creativity that the top artists of the period were capable of.

3. The subject matter and Britishness of the work of the Victorian painters has limited appeal, particularly for non-British collectors, which makes finding buyers all the more difficult.

4. Many top Victorian painters have yet to be recognised and linger in relative obscurity.

5. A large number of the top paintings from the period have remained behind closed doors in private collections for long periods of time, sometimes for many decades. Many top paintings from the period are also owned by museums, which means that what are currently considered to be the most desirable works rarely appear on the market.

Thankfully the market for Victorian paintings is progressing and expanding thanks to greater attention being given to the period by academics and curators. This has led to the work of the British Victorian painters being displayed more frequently in America and Europe where more and more collectors are warming to the work of the period. What is also encouraging is the fact that the work of many virtually unknown Victorian painters is being given the recognition that it deserves which has given much greater depth and character to the market. As more and more artists are discovered, the number of works that are considered to be desirable will begin to rise, and will lead to a greater number of collectors entering the market and higher prices being paid.

My advice would be to research the work of the lesser known British Victorian artists who have at least received some recognition and attention from critics and scholars, and invest in their work right now while there are still bargains to be found !!!!!.

Part 1:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/02/25/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-part-1-artmarketblog-com/

Part 2:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/03/04/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-pt-2-artmarketblog-com/

Part 3:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/03/11/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-pt-3-artmarketblog-com/

Part 4:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/03/18/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-pt-4-artmarketblog-com/

Part 5:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/03/23/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-pt-5-%e2%80%93-artmarketblog-com/

Part 6:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/04/04/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-pt-6-%E2%80%93-artmarketblog-com/

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

The Rise of Victorian Paintings Pt. 6 – artmarketblog.com

The Rise of Victorian Paintings Pt. 6 – artmarketblog.com

The Birth of Eve, by Solomon J Solomon (1860 – 1927)

There is no doubt that provenance played a major part in the successful sale of the major private collections of Victorian paintings that I have mentioned in this series of posts, which means that the sale of these collections should not be used as an indication of the overall health of the market for Victorian paintings. The reason that I spent so much time analysing these sales is because they have played an important part in what is a slow but steady increase in the recognition and respect that Victorian painters are receiving. Although the extent to which the market for Victorian era art has improved is not as stellar as the figures achieved for the major private collections may suggest, the fact that many previously overlooked artists were given some long overdue attention, and works by more well known Victorian painters were the focus of competitive bidding, is proof that the market for Victorian paintings is heading in the right direction.

In the past one of the biggest problems that has plagued the market for Victorian paintings is the lack of academic and curatorial attention that the artists of the period have received. Over the last ten years academics and scholars have, however, begun to take the work of Victorian artists much more seriously, which has resulted in a number of major exhibitions such as:

‘Exposed: The Victorian Nude’ held at the Tate Britain in 2002

‘Love & Death: Art in the Age of Queen Victoria’ held at various locations in Australia during 2002/3

‘Pre-Raphaelite Vision: Truth to Nature’ held at the Tate Britain in 2004

‘Masterworks of Victorian Art from the Collection of John H. Schaeffer’ held at the BYU Museum of Art in 2008

‘Victorian Paintings from the Museo de Arte de Ponc’ held in Spain in 2009

‘Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage’, a touring exhibition that is currently showing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

It is worth noting that there has been a significant increase in the interest that Americans are showing in Victorian art, which has been fuelled partly by several major exhibitions of Victorian art that have gone on show in America over the last ten years. According to the curator of the Californian Palace of the Legion of Honour, an American museum that purchased a major Victorian painting by John Roddam Spencer Stanhome in 2003, “Following a number of popular museum exhibitions recently, there has been a sea-change in the appreciation of Victorian art in America.” (The Daily Telegraph London, January 27th 2003).

Another major exhibition of Victorian paintings is about to go on show (May 20) at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. The exhibition, titled ‘Victorian visions: Nineteenth-century art from the John Schaeffer Collection’, “presents an impressive collection of some 45 paintings, watercolours, drawings and sculptures by some of the luminaries of Victorian art, including works by Rossetti, Holman Hunt, Burne-Jones, Leighton, Poynter, Watts and Waterhouse” from the collection of John Schaeffer. Schaeffer is an Australian entrepreneur and art collector whose collection of 19th century European art, rumoured to number more than 500 works, is considered to be one of the best in the world. Until recently there were rumours that Schaeffer, one of the biggest buyers of Victorian paintings in past years, had withdrawn from the market. Schaeffer’s absence from the salerooms, combined with a minor sell-off of works from his collection, caused a panic that saw confidence in the market for Victorian paintings drop. The rumours were proven to be untrue when Schaeffer purchased a large painting by the late-Victorian symbolist Solomon Joseph Solomon titled ‘Birth of Eve’ at a Sotheby’s auction in December 2009. Schaeffer purchased the 10ft canvas for a record £713,250 – well above the artist’s previous auction record of £35,000.

The effect that the Schaeffer rumours had on the market for Victorian paintings is an example of another problem that the market for Victorian paintings needs to overcome. There are so few major collectors of Victorian paintings that the actions of just one of those collectors can have major repercussions for the whole market. In fact, you can count the collectors of Victorian paintings worth mentioning on one hand, with digits to spare – namely: Isabel Goldsmith, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and John Schaeffer.

To be continued………….

Part 1:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/02/25/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-part-1-artmarketblog-com/

Part 2:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/03/04/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-pt-2-artmarketblog-com/

Part 3:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/03/11/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-pt-3-artmarketblog-com/

Part 4:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/03/18/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-pt-4-artmarketblog-com/

Part 5:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/03/23/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-pt-5-%e2%80%93-artmarketblog-com/

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications

The Rise of Victorian Paintings Pt. 4 – artmarketblog.com

The Rise of Victorian Paintings Pt. 4 – artmarketblog.com

WILLIAM SOMERVILLE SHANKS, R.S.A., R.S.W. 1864-1951 TIDDLEY WINKS 150,000—200,000 GBP Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 181,250 GBP

Sir David Scott began collecting art in 1910 and over a period of 75 years amassed a large art collection that included 150 Victorian paintings, all of which were auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2008, more than 20 years after Scott’s death (1986). Scott was an eccentric aristocrat whose efforts to maintain a low profile meant that he was able to put together an extremely important collection of Victorian art at his Dower House, Northamptonshire residence in relative secrecy. Scott’s passion for art, the Victorian period in particular, is evident in a comment he made regarding one of the paintings in his collection. According to Scott:”I don’t think I have ever seen another picture by Somerville Shanks but if this is typical of his work I wonder why he is not better known, for it is really beautifully painted, the dress of the girl in the foreground is reminiscent of Sargent at his best and of course the whole picture is delightfully nostalgic, absolutely redolent as it were, of a day nursery of the 80s or 90s.” This comment is also evidence of how under-valued and under-appreciated the Victorian era is, particularly the work of Victorian painters.

The length of time that the paintings in the Scott collection had remained off the market made the sale even more enticing to collectors and connoisseurs who turned out in force to take advantage of the opportunity. “A Great British Collection” was the title given to the sale – a move that Sotheby’s hoped would distance the sale from the stigmas associated with the word “Victorian” and bring more people to the sale. At the time of the sale, in November 2008, the art market was still reeling from a major crisis of confidence brought about by the hyperinflated market for contemporary art, which led to many art market commentators making rather sceptical predictions about the sale. Because the market for Victorian paintings was dominated by a small number of passionate collectors and connoisseurs, there was particular concern when the auction took place due to the fact that the removal of even one of the main patrons of the Victorian era could spell disaster for the whole Victorian paintings market.

To be continued……

Part 1:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/02/25/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-part-1-artmarketblog-com/

Part 2:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/03/04/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-pt-2-artmarketblog-com/

Part 3:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/03/11/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-pt-3-artmarketblog-com/

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications