Christie's | Fine Art Auction House


1 May 2012  |  Collections   |  Article

The Symbiotic Relationship Between
The Valuations and Collections Departments

Nick Orchard, European Head of Estates, Appraisals & Valuations (Valuations), and Andrew Waters, Head of UK Private Collections & Country House Sales (Collections) explain the symbiotic relationship between their departments.

Last year Christie’s London staged ten private collection and country house sales, three of these sales are discussed in more detail below:

Q: How do your two departments work together?

NO: A Number of collection sales that Andrew’s team brings to the market have started with a valuation. My department may have orchestrated the valuation many years previously and a trigger, such as, a handover between generations, financial planning, a death, or simply redecorating can lead to a sale. At this point my department will involve Andrew’s team.

Q: How long did you work on the Lyons Demesne collection before it came to sale?

NO: The inheritance tax valuation first undertaken by the Valuations department in 2007, covered artworks located across the globe. The valuation took many months to complete and a further four years to reach the point of sale. Andrew’s team were involved in the valuation and gained a deep understanding of Dr. Ryan’s collection.

AW: At the beginning of last year my team re-visited Lyons Demesne with a view to staging the auction in July 2011. Using the valuation documents as a starting point we began the process of cataloguing, research and photography in situ in Ireland. This was the start of an intense period of preparation leading up to the sale day, which included, an exhibition of highlights in Ireland, organising the transport of the works of art to London, an international advertising and marketing campaign, and the re-creation of the house interiors in our saleroom. The culmination was a hugely successful auction result that far exceeded pre-sale expectations.

Q: When you handled the Duarte Pinto Coelho Collection from Spain were there any different challenges for your two departments? 

NO: We operate very much as a team across Europe and the challenges presented were much the same though, with regional differences relating to inheritance tax legislation and logistics. Duarte, the influential interior designer realised he needed to plan for the future, so he asked Christie’s to carry out a valuation of his extensive collection. In his will he appointed Christie’s to sell his collection on his death.

AW: Once again the preparation started six months prior to the auction, which was scheduled to take place in London. Similarly to Ireland we took a team of photographers to capture the distinctive interiors. However, in this case we transported everything to London prior to the process of cataloguing. Similarly to the Lyons Demesne sale we recreated the wonderful interiors in our London saleroom. While the Duarte Collection had a very different style to Lyons Demesne, both sales had international appeal. The Duarte Collection more than doubled pre-sale estimates.

Q: What is the appeal of a collection sale to buyers?

AW: More often than not private collections have distinctive defining themes so one can instantly understand the passion of the collector, or alternatively the changing tastes that develop over time through various generations within a family. This gives a fascinating insight into the lifestyle of the collector or the family. Christie’s take great care in presenting the story behind the works of art and this appeals to both new and established buyers. Clients have great confidence in buying from a private collection when the works of art are being sold from an historic house. Such works are appealing as they are fresh to the market and have not been seen for many years. Another factor can be that buyers simply want to own a part of history or treasured memento from a celebrity figure.

Q: You must both be very aware of the market trends?

NO: As a department that values everything from antique furniture to post-war and contemporary art, we have to keep abreast of the changes in the market across all categories. At the moment we see that the changes reflect the current global economic situation. We have witnessed an incredible rise in the market for Chinese works of art and a continuing appetite for masterpieces in all fields.

AW: In addition to the exceptional prices Christie’s achieve for the top works of art in all categories, I am always delighted with the extraordinary prices that Christie’s achieve in collection sales for what may be regarded as quite standard items such as modern table lamps or sofas. Our buyers often compete for these items up to and way beyond retail prices.

Q: What were the most exciting aspects of The Cowdray Sale ?

AW: The 1st Viscount and Viscountess Cowdray assembled a vast collection of art at the beginning of the 20th century. They acquired Cowdray Park, West Sussex in 1909, where they formed an important collection of early English paintings, silver and furniture to reflect the taste of a Tudor court. Christie’s was honoured to be entrusted with the sale of this historic collection. It was a great pleasure to research such a diverse and wonderful collection to open the majestic doors of Cowdray to over 4,000 of our international clients. Christie’s specialists enjoyed guiding our many clients through the house explaining the history of the Pearson family and sharing their knowledge of works of art.

NO: This is another good example of a long-standing relationship. The Valuation team carried out valuations for insurance purposes for many years and we were delighted to see the Collection sale team deliver an exceptional sale result, which included a number of world record prices.

Related Sale
Sale 8012
Lyons Demesne Works of Art from The Collection of The Late Dr. Tony Ryan
14 Jul 2011
London, King Street

Sale 3699
The Duarte Pinto Coelho Collection From the distinguished decorator's houses in Madrid and Trujillo, Spain
20-21 Jul 2011
London, South Kensington

Sale 8014
The Cowdray Sale: Works of Art from Cowdray Park and Dunecht House, At Cowdray Park, West Sussex
13-15 Sep 2011
London, King Street

Related Departments
European Furniture, Decorative Objects & Early Sculpture
House Sale
Private Collections & Country House Sales

All - Paintings, Prints, Drawings & Watercolors
All other categories of objects
Furniture & Lighting
20th Century

Nick Orchard
European Head of Estates, Appraisals & Valuations

Andrew Waters
Head of UK Private Collections & Country House Sales Department