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Fine Art Auctioneer's Review: What's Been Hot in 2012

Chris Hampton, Managing Director of Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood, provides a review of the fine art auction market in 2012 and offers his predictions for 2013.

A small gouache by Mary Fedden, dated 1983, of a wheatear in a landscape sold at £2,000 in October 2012.

A small gouache by Mary Fedden, dated 1983, of a wheatear in a landscape sold at £2,000 in October 2012.

The world of Antiques and Fine Art has never been a greater barometer of British economic activity because it has become such a global business. This has come about largely through technology, where it has become possible to reach out from our salerooms in Exeter and Honiton to potential buyers across the globe.

As we draw towards the end of another year at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood, it is useful to reflect on the sales that have passed and the polarisation of prices in certain areas. Those areas which remain incredibly strong are, of course, led by the Chinese Market.

A Chinese porcelain famille rose bottle (FS13/346), which was hotly contested over in the saleroom, sold for £80,000.

A Chinese porcelain famille rose bottle (FS13/346), which was hotly contested over in the saleroom at the start of 2012, sold for £80,000.

In January, we started the year with a Chinese porcelain famille rose bottle (FS13/346) which was hotly contested over, selling at £80,000 and we ended the year with a 17th/18th Century Chinese rhinocerous horn libation cup (FS16/573) equally strongly competed over before selling at £34,000. These were just two examples of a number of items of Chinese porcelain and works of art sold successfully during the year and this market continues to dominate.

A 17th/18th Century Chinese rhinocerous horn libation cup (FS16/573) sold for £34,000 at the end of 2012.

A 17th/18th Century Chinese rhinocerous horn libation cup (FS16/573) sold for £34,000 at the end of 2012.

An Elizabeth I communion goblet and paten (FS15/114), inscribed to the church wardens of St Petrock by the Parish of St Kerrian, sold at £16,000.

An Elizabeth I communion goblet and paten (FS15/114), inscribed to the church wardens of St Petrock by the Parish of St Kerrian, sold at £16,000.

Elsewhere though, there have been some excellent results. Items of silver and jewellery continue to sell well. Amongst the silver which dominated was a group of Exeter related items. An Elizabeth I communion goblet and paten (FS15/114) inscribed to the church wardens of St Petrock by the Parish of St Kerrian sold at £16,000 (The parish church of St Kerrian was in North Street in Exeter and was demolished in the course of road widening in 1879), whilst a Commonwealth silver paten (FS15/110) inscribed for St Lawrence Church 1690 sold for a staggering £12,200 (St Lawrence Church was destroyed in the Exeter Blitz of 1942).

A Commonwealth silver paten (FS15/110), inscribed for St Lawrence Church 1690, sold for a staggering £12,200.

A Commonwealth silver paten (FS15/110), inscribed for St Lawrence Church 1690, sold for a staggering £12,200.

The market which has become polarised is that of Antique furniture. We know only too well that 'brown furniture' is out of fashion and it is possible to buy some really good quality items in the under £1,000 bracket for half the amounts, or less, than you would have paid ten years ago. The high end and decorative furniture markets, though, continue to shine.

Amongst the furniture highlights of the year, was a solid English walnut Cotswold School extending dining table (FS12/793a). Made by Peter Van der Waals, who joined Ernest Gimson in his workshop in the early 1900s, it sold for £14,500. A good example of a high end piece was the mid 18th Century mahogany 'Pepys' bookcase, which soared above its estimate to achieve £20,000.

An extending dining table (FS12/793a) made by Peter van der Waals realised £14,500.

An extending dining table (FS12/793a) made by Peter van der Waals realised £14,500.

The picture market has also changed in recent years. Tastes have changed away from the Victorian era towards the 20th Century and a charming Newlyn School oil painting by Dorothea Sharp (1874–1955) sold in October 2012 for £6,200 (FS16/255) and a small gouache by Mary Fedden dated 1983 of a wheat ear in a landscape sold at £2,000.

A mid 18th Century mahogany 'Pepys' bookcase soared
        above its estimate to achieve £20,000.

A mid 18th Century mahogany 'Pepys' bookcase soared above its estimate to achieve £20,000.

The area of collectors items remains strong and items such as stamps, coins, medal, railwayana and sporting memorabilia, etc, have continued to be highly sought after.

My prediction for 2013 is for these markets to continue to dominate and people to see Antiques and Collectables not only as an investment but something which is enjoyable to own and pleasing to the eye and you can’t get that same enjoyment from looking at your end of year investment statement!

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  • Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood
  • Fine Art Auction Market

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