Last issue I wrote about changing tastes and how that has led to an developing roster of sales and departments at auction houses now.
That’s no bad thing; nostalgia and tradition are wonderful concepts, but in business they should not get in the way of progress. Thirty years ago, most fine art and antique auctions were trade affairs. Those bidding were largely dealers, with the odd well-informed collector competing against them for lots. Catalogues, if they existed at all, tended to be cursory, with little detail about what was being sold – you really had to attend the view and know what to look for if you wanted to dig out the treasures.
That all changed when auctioneers realised that if they did a good enough job and made things as clear as possible, including the whole process of buying, then they could sell direct to the public too and business would grow.
In recent years, and especially now as most sales have gone almost completely online, clarity matters all the more. Technology has allowed auction houses to provide more and better pictures of each lot, online or email condition reports and easy access to bidding live or via timed auction over the internet.
What they have also been able to do is market sales better. So what might simply have been promoted as a furniture auction decades ago can now become more focused as, say, a post-war design or interiors sale. By putting more thought into the way lots are grouped and presented, they can make them more attractive to the right bidders and increase demand and prices.
This is a vital part of our expertise today, whether you are selling high-end jewellery and pictures or simple collectables.