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Heist at Petworth fair

Sussex policed launched a hunt for ram raiders who hit the Petworth Park Antiques & Fine Art Fair in a jewellery heist totalling £830,000. The thieves used a pick-up truck and sports utility vehicle after they broke into the marquee in the grounds of Petworth House, West Sussex in the early hours of Sunday, May 12.

The target of the raid was the 400kg safe where valuable dealers’ stock and cash was held overnight.

Although opportunistic theft is a regular hazard for dealers, the scale and nature of this incident was shocking for the trade. It also highlighted the potential security risks inherent in marquee events.

Handing it to de Pury

In London, a judge dismissed the appeal against art adviser Simon de Pury in a court case over a ‘gentleman’s agreement’. The Court of Appeals upheld the decision that said de Pury was entitled to a $10m fee on the strength of a handshake agreement.

Good news for militaria

A significant amendment was made to the Offensive Weapons Act, permitting antique knives or swords to be sent in the post so long as buyers can prove they are 18 or older.

Fairs evolution

Penman Fairs, the limited company behind four annual UK fairs, was dissolved. Cooper Events took over the Chester Antiques Fair while Two C’s took on the Burford Antiques Fair. Caroline Penman continues to organise other events on the former company’s roster, including the Chelsea Antiques Fair.

Clarion Events had spent several years tweaking Birmingham’s historic NEC fair, Art and Antiques for Everyone, including a rebrand it and launching a new ‘weekend only’ section. Finally, after more than a decade of ownership, it announced it was selling to MaD Events. The new owner said its first priority was to boost exhibitor numbers.

Sandon calls it a day

After 43 years as the director of British ceramics at Bonhams, John Sandon retired. He said: “Being in London at the top of our game, handling the best porcelain in the world, one couldn’t really ask for anything more.”

Jim Peake was appointed specialist in British ceramics and glass, while Fergus Gambon was promoted to head of the department.

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A collection of Iznik and Damascus tiles from the estate of artist Sir Howard Hodgkin (1932-2017) comprised the first 42 lots at a Dreweatts (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) auction on May 22. Hodgkin had bought this example from dealer Millner Manolatos in 2006 and it was previously in a French private collection. It was hammered down for £31,000 over a high estimate of £8000.

Changes in Hants & Yorks

Various changes were announced around regional auction houses. Toy specialist Nick Powner and his son James took over the former auction house of George Kidner in Hampshire to relaunch auctions and open an antiques centre.

Yorkshire firm Dee Atkinson & Harrison was renamed Spicers by former employee Andrew Spicer.

Political pulling power

The collections of two former British prime ministers went under the hammer. The auction of the collection of Sir Harold Wilson at Hansons was led by a watercolour painting by Prince Charles, which sold for £10,500 (plus 20% buyer’s premium).

A Christie’s online sale coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s re-election offered items she owned and took a premium-inclusive £1.08m.