S otheby's recent Made in Britain auction comprising 20th Century British paintings, prints, photography, studio pottery and design, was a great success with a high sell through rate and encouraging results. Moreover, 21 lots in the auction were the direct result of clients who used the Sotheby’s on-line Pricing Platform and all 21 sold. Two days later in a sell-out Bansky prints auction, where virtually all lots sold over the high estimate, a further seventeen lots from vendors who used the Pricing Platform were included. Here we take a closer look at a select few of these successful sales. The next Made in Britain sale will be held in September and submissions for this sale are invited.
Cooper wanted his ceramics to reflect the urban environment and not look as if they were produced in some rural idyll. Therefore, in the design and glazes for his tableware he looked not to the browns of the Leach tradition but to the clean lines and light colours of northern Europe. He was fascinated by the textures and tempos of the metropolis with the volcanic surfaces of his stoneware bowls and jugs inspired by the concrete and grit of the pavements, while his porcelain bowls, with their vivid venetian reds, emerald green or glorious yellow, pay homage to the neon lights and traffic of the night time city. His reputation as a skilled glaze technician is second to none, and he was invited by the V&A to produce the glaze tests that formed part of their permanent displays of the ceramic process.
Known for his intimate images chronicling the fashions, styles, and stars of the Swinging Sixties, Terry O’Neill often caught his subjects in candid moments or unconventional settings. O’Neill captured this image of actress Brigitte Bardot while shooting on the set of the western comedy The Legend of Frenchie King, on location in Spain in 1971.
Of the photograph, O’Neill is quoted as saying “I noticed that when the wind gusted there was the potential for a great picture. When the time came, I only had one frame left – one shot at it. But suddenly the wind swept her hair across her face, and it was a knock-out.”.
In the mid 60s Bridget Riley was a pioneer of 'Op Art’, the dynamic potentialities of optical phenomena, that captured the imagination of the public and became part of the Swinging Sixties. The fashion, design and advertising industries fell in love with its graphic, sign-like patterns and decorative value. Op Art was cool, and Riley became Britain’s number one art celebrity. From 1967 onwards Riley increasingly began to use colour. She began to concentrate on simple vertical straight or wavy lines. It was the positioning of the colour itself that produced the feel of movement she wanted to convey. The colour groupings affected the spaces between them to produce fleeting glimpses of other colours, hence the illusion of movement.
Another Bridget Riley lot in the sale which typifies 'Op Art’, was purchased by the vendor in Christie's New York in 2012 for $5,625, which shows a handsome profit in a relatively short time.
The Scottish painter William Gear R.A. (1915-1997) was an abstract painter whose early works sparked controversy. His 1952 painting March Landscape was purchased by Lady Mabel Annesley for The Bishop Suter Art Gallery in New Zealand. The Suter Trust Board questioned the purchase and Lady Annesley resigned as a gallery trustee in protest at its reaction. When March Landscape went on display for the first time at The Suter, a public debate about the merits of abstract art erupted in the local press, followed by the British press. This served to confirm Gear's reputation as being one of the most avant-garde painters of his day.
One of England’s most celebrated contemporary painters, Howard Hodgkin (1932–2017) was deeply attuned to the interplay of gesture, color, and ground. Embracing time as a compositional element, his work is testament to his immersion in the intangibility of thoughts, feelings, and fleeting private moments. He once said: "I am happy for people to talk about my pictures, but I wish devoutly that I was not expected to talk about them myself". The print had been purchased at Sotheby’s in 2011 for £6,250.
The Dove, painted a year before Graham Sutherland's death, was acquired circa 1979 by the vendor’s family at the Marlborough Gallery, London. The subject of the dove with its Christian connotations was not accidental, as Sutherland had a deep religious belief and undertook many religious commissions including the famous tapestry Christ in Glory in 1962, for Coventry Cathedral.
Testino first worked with Kate Moss in Paris at the beginning of the 1990s and they have since continued a creative partnership. Describing working with Testino, Moss said: "I have grown up with him photographing me – we have grown up together in a sense. The trust between us means that we are free with each other, he does not trap me into a set way of being, we find the picture together."
From the Banksy sale, this is one of 17 prints which were consigned as a result of clients using the Pricing Platform, and the realised price, in common with many others in the sale, was significantly over the estimate, showing the artists commercial popularity.
Mark Stephen is Deputy Director in the London valuations department, responsible for online appraisals with 35 years’ experience in the auction world. The variety and breadth of antique and often, not so-antique, objects and paintings sent to Sotheby’s via our online platform is an experience to see. We sift through watches, jewelry, wine and paintings from every period; silver, ceramics and objects so bizarre they cannot be categorised: the good, the bad, and the ugly of the antiques world passes through our hands on a daily basis.