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UK art market growth

In March it was revealed that the UK’s art market reclaimed its second position in the global league table as China’s rapid growth slowed during 2018. The UK reported sales up 8% to just under $14bn in 2018, leading to a 1% gain in market share to 21%.

The performance helped it return to second place in the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report table. China’s market share decreased by 2% to 19%, taking third place while the US maintained its lead.

Total global art market sales reached $67.4bn, up 6% year-on-year in 2018 – the second highest level in 10 years. These three countries dominated, with combined sales accounting for 84% of the market by value.

TEFAF vetting committee

TEFAF chose a new global chair for an ‘independent’ vetting committee ahead of the fair organiser’s TEFAF Maastricht event in March.

The new role, chairing the vetting across all three TEFAF Fairs (TEFAF Maastricht, TEFAF New York Spring and TEFAF New York Fall) was filled by Wim Pijbes, emeritus general director at the Rijksmuseum. He took over from Henk van Os, another former Rijksmuseum director, who chaired the vetting committees at Maastricht for more than a decade.

It followed a review of legal issues relating to vetting and the decision to ‘recalibrate’ vetting committees for TEFAF events to ensure that only experts with ‘as little commercial interest in the art market as possible’ are now included as voting members.

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The inaugural Modern Made auction held by Lyon & Turnbull in London recorded a hammer total of £800,000 (close to £1m including premium). The sale was the brainchild of associate director Philip Smith. The financial highlight of the March 27 auction was provided by a 2ft 6in (77cm) square oil, Growth I, by Malaysian Modernist painter and poet Abdul Latiff Mohidin (b.1938). The signed and dated 1968 picture was hammered down at £200,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) against an estimate of £30,000-50,000.

New offices in London

In March a number of auction houses opened new businesses or locations in London.

Essex’s Sworders opened an office in Cecil Court near Covent Garden.

Newly established auction houses Tate Ward and Kings Russell also launched with planned sales the following month.

Tate Ward was founded by former Christie’s and Chiswick Auctions specialists and Kings Russell is run by Charles Hoey, most recently at Criterion, and Donal Savage, previously at Dreweatts.

Art in schools collection

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The Blue Plate by Anne Redpath which sold for £31,000 at Cheffins.

Hertfordshire County Council controversially sold off a collection of art belonging to its former Art in schools programme.

Despite the sale at Cheffins on March 21 drawing criticism, including an online petition to stop the sale that garnered around 2400 signatures, many of the works sold well over estimate.

The pictures in The Curated Eye sale had been part of the School Loan Collection designed to educate pupils about art. A highlight was The Blue Plate by Anne Redpath which sold at £31,000 (see above).

Constable sketches

Two previously unpublished ink sketches by John Constable (1776 -1837) produced c.1832-35 sold at Chiswick Auctions’ March 6 British & European Fine Art sale.

Found in the home of the late playwright Christopher Fry (1907- 2005), the tiny sketches had been estimated at £5000-8000 each.

After intense bidding one sketch measuring 47 x 77mm sold for £32,000 with the other (below), slightly larger at 64 x 83mm, hammered at £60,000.

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John Constable sketch sold for £60,000 at Cheffins.