Well, it’s November again and the great annual Asian art fest which launches itself against the background of Asian Art in London. Lectures, openings, book launches and world class exhibitions gather under the direct aegis of AAL. There is, however, an array of events which are rather more loosely associated but which are of massive interest to some collectors, and an awful lot of dealers.
There will be more Asian art auctions this month than in any other month of the year. We have listed no less than 29 on our Asian Auctions Nationwide page on this site. We have maybe missed a couple (just a few auctioneers inexplicably treat the details of their auctions as some sort of dark secret!), but it is clear that over the next 30 days there is virtually an auction of Asian Art in some part of the UK every day. Some days are rather busier than others.
On November 9 the London heavyweights Christie’s and Sotheby’s compete for bidders whilst Gorringes in Lewes and Halls in Shrewsbury have sales further ‘out of town’. The following days Bonhams in London fight it out with Ewbanks and Thomson Roddick, north of the Border. A really difficult day for the avowed enthusiast is November 15 with a Bonhams sale in London; Dreweatts & Bloomsbury at Castle Donnington and day one of Wolley & Wallis’s usual epic 2-day sale in Salisbury (really interesting things in all three sales).
How does a serious enthusuiast keep on top of such a plethora of offerings? Last May, we did a week of sales: Chiswick Auctions on the Monday; Dreweatts & Bloomsbury on the Tuesday; Woolley & Wallis on the Wednesday; and Dukes of Dorchester on the Friday. It was fun, but it was exhausting . . . and expensive. Six days on the road with a thirsty 4WD diesel knocked up well over 1200 miles and six nights in hotels plus meals brought a total cost, without too much extravagance (well, just a little), of something under £2,000. We did completely fill a Chelsea tractor to the roof with all the seats down but it took a couple of days to recover.
This November we are doing it differently. We have increasingly, this year, bid online. I used to say I would never buy anything I had not handled but, in those days, we were buying porcelain in a market replete with dubious items. However, these days we are buying differently: furniture and decorative items feature higher on our priorities and condition reports from auctioneers are usually very reliable; similarly, they are usually happy to send excellent pictures.
So, this November, as an experiment, we shall stay in our gallery, and newly acquired 4,500 sq ft warehouse, and bid online. We shall be able to cover two or three auctions a day and home in on what we really want. Online buying tends to focus your mind with set budgets, rarely exceeded in the absence of the excitement of the rooms! I also have a sneaking suspicion that often we get things more cheaply when we are not in the rooms . . .
Of course, there is the cost of getting these highly anticipated objects back. But as we have saved a couple of thousand on tripping around the country there is a budget there. Those auctioneers who offer their own packing service are favoured by us (honourable mentions to two highly efficient and reliable firms in the form of Hannams and Eastbourne Auctions) as the ubiquitous Mailboxes, Etc can be pricey, dependent on the branch.
Of course, there are sometimes disappointments when these new treasures arrive not quite as they were fondly imagined. What do we do with them? Pack them up again and send them off to auction, of course. And, we do have a new warehouse to fill . . .