Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hammer falls on Sotheby's auctions at Gleneagles

Hammer falls on Sotheby's auctions at Gleneagles

Published Date: 06 May 2009
By Tim Cornwell, Arts Correspondent,
SOTHEBY'S has abandoned its flagship Gleneagles auction of Scottish art after 40 years, and will now hold its biannual Scottish auctions in London, it was confirmed yesterday.
It comes days after chief rival Christie's said it will hold no more specialised sales of Scottish or Irish art in a radical shake-up of its own auctions.

Scottish art experts and dealers were dismayed by Sotheby's decision yesterday. Both aucti
on houses were wrongly downgrading the importance of Scottish art buyers, they said.

"I think it's a great pity," said Guy Peploe, director of the Scottish Gallery. "It was great fun going up to Gleneagles, a different quality of experience. It is part of the Scottish social calendar that will be missed."

For decades, the two British auction houses have set records for Scottish painters from the Colourists to Jack Vettriano at their regular sales in Scotland, mostly in Edinburgh.

Mr Peploe is a grandson of the Scottish Colourist Samuel John Peploe. Christie's is to sell a Peploe painting – Pink and Red Roses in a Vase – at its general sale of 20th-century British art this month, as Scottish works are wrapped into different sales.

Mr Peploe said he understood the market pressures for auction cost-cutting, with buyers able to operate by phone or internet wherever auctions are held.

"I can see how they have come to their conclusion," he said, but added: "It feels a little bit like a slap in the face to the Scottish market, no matter how it's dressed up."

Sotheby's has taken major works to Gleneagles since 1967.

"Obviously there will be people disappointed," said André Zlattinger, Sotheby's head of Scottish pictures. "It's a huge change after the last 40 years."

Sotheby's will hope to show Scottish pictures in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow before they go under the hammer in London, he said. "We are not leaving Scotland." Last week, a Sotheby's sale of Scottish pictures in London brought in nearly £3 million. Scottish buyers were active with internet and phone bids, he said.

Duncan Thomson, an art expert and adviser to Shapes auctioneers in Edinburgh, said: "In some ways it's a mistake, because it's quite clear that Scottish art sells better in Scotland than it does in London. I'm slightly puzzled by the logic."

A Christie's spokesman said yesterday: "The last three years of Scottish sales have had bids from Russia, the Middle East, and North America. This will actually expose Scottish art to a wider market."

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