Changing fashions drive prices in ceramics

Men Have Lost Their Spirits by Grayson Perry © Sotheby's
Grayson Perry’s vase is tipped to make at least £20,000

The “Century of Ceramics” sale gets underway at Sotheby’s in London on 13 September as part of its biannual Made in Britain auction. Expect works by Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, Grayson Perry and Gabriele Koch to be highly sought after. Greater gallery exposure has helped foster a growing interest in 20th-century British studio ceramics, as Anna Temkin points out in The Times.

At a recent exhibition by Scottish ceramic artist Jennifer Lee at London’s Erskine Hall & Coe gallery, every item sold before the show had even opened. As a collector, it’s all a question of knowing what to look for.

“What stays constant throughout is the importance of quality workmanship, good condition and important provenance,” Jody Wilkie, international head of ceramics at Christie’s, tells Temkin.
“Add royal provenance to a fairly ordinary-looking plate and the price will jump.”

Yet, most ceramics sell at accessible prices, which make them an obvious draw for collectors – the recent notable exception being a ceramic vase by Pablo Picasso, which fetched $250,000 in May in New York, shattering its $60,000 upper estimate. But even that example underscores the growing appetite for ceramics among collectors.

Fashion plays a bigger role than rarity in driving prices, with modern and contemporary pieces currently en vogue. “What may be desirable one year may change the next,” says Mark Huddleston, a senior specialist at Fellows Auctioneers in London.

That said, established names are often considered sound investments. For example, last year a Grayson Perry vase fetched £40,000 – double its estimate. Another of Perry’s vases, Men Have Lost Their Spirits from 1988, is one of the headline lots at the “Century of Ceramics” sale, with an estimate of between £20,000 and £30,000 – perhaps something to think about.

Meanwhile, over at Christie’s in New York, an online sale of art deco ceramics by Briton Clarice Cliff runs until next Friday. Estimates range from $100 to $30,000.

For newer collectors looking to avoid jumping in at the deep end, finding works by lesser-known artists can be a profitable strategy. Robin Cawdron-Stewart, an expert at Sotheby’s quoted in The Times, points to John Ward, a potter whose works fetched hundreds of pounds a couple of years ago, but now sell for up to £10,000. Museums and galleries, including the V&A in London, are good places to build up your knowledge, and most importantly, find a style you like.

Carol McNicoll and Paul Scott are two contemporary British artists to keep in mind while treading the galleries, according to Mieke ten Have in The Wall Street Journal. The former can be found at the Marsden Woo gallery in London.

Gentlemen Jack’s priceless cars

Period dress is absolutely de rigeur, say the organisers of the annual Goodwood Revival meeting of classic-car fanatics, held on 8-10 September. But never mind the tweed jackets and trilbies – or even the races for that matter. This year’s event at the Duke of Richmond’s estate in Chichester, West Sussex, sees the collection of cars belonging to the late rally legend “Gentleman Jack” Sears pass under Bonhams’ hammer on the second day.

“One of the most versatile and talented British racers of the 1950s and 1960s”, Sears won the inaugural British Saloon Car Championship in 1958, and again in 1963 behind the wheel of “a mighty seven-litre Ford Galaxie 500”, says Sarah Bradley in The Independent. This former John Willment Racing Team machine is “one of the star lots”, expected to make at least £180,000.

The other seven cars in the collection span the decades between the 1930s and 2000s, including a 1938 Rolls-Royce Phantom III Limousine. It has been in the Sears family since it was new, and is expected to make between £80,000 and £120,000. Then there’s the “luxurious” 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SL with an upper price tag in the region of £100,000.

However, the classic car with the highest guide price at the sale is actually outside the Sears collection. It is a 1952 Bentley R-Type Continental Sports Saloon that briefly belonged to Georges Filipinetti, the Swiss founder of the Scuderia Filipinetti racing team. It is expected to fetch between £500,000 and £700,000.

Breakfast at Tiffany's poster (Italian version) © Sotheby's

Auctions

Going…

Sotheby’s is set to hold its inaugural Original Film Posters Online auction, with lots including a French version of the 1933 film King Kong, valued at between £20,000 and £30,000, the first James Bond film, Dr No,– £10,000 to £15,000 – and an Italian version of the poster for the 1961 Audrey Hepburn classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s (pictured), which is expected to fetch up to £12,000. The posters are on display at the New Bond Street galleries in London prior to the sale, which runs from 29 August to 11 September.

Gone…

The only known surviving  copy of the Italian film poster for Casablanca, celebrated for its artistry, sold for $478,000 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas on 29 July. The film was released in 1942, but the Italian poster, designed by Luigi Martinati in Rome, dates from 1946, when Italy resumed screening American films following World War II. An American half-sheet version, dating to 1942, was also on sale. It fetched $65,725.