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Director James Rawlin announced the move in a special promotional brochure for 20th century British and Irish art published by their Bond Street rooms.

In it he explains that traditional divisions for sales now leave the auction house with “numerous anachronisms and uncomfortable juxtapositions”. By redrawing the boundaries of their departments and sales, he promises that they will now “seek to look afresh at the works we sell and ensure that the context in which they are presented is appropriate. New sale categories will now include 20th Century British Art and Victorian And Edwardian Art.

“In those areas where there is overlap, such as with the Newlyn School of painters, the specialist from both areas will join forces to ensure that the works on offer are given the maximum exposure to the market, using combined viewings, cross-referenced buyer listings and imaginative marketing.”

Scott Reyburn noted only last week in reporting on the most recent British paintings sales in London for the Antiques Trade Gazette Art Market pages that with a new millennium, shifting tastes, “and the vast majority of great pre-20th century British pictures long sold off, this is an edifice that is developing some severe structural problems”.

It seems that Sotheby’s are only too aware of the difficulties and are actively trying to do something about it.