Christie's | Fine Art Auction House

Andrew McVinish

Head of Sunday Sales

Apart from the obvious fact that they are held on Sundays, what makes the Sunday sales so unique?
They are collection sales which give buyers the unique opportunity to buy into someone else’s style. The objects, pictures and pieces of furniture always have a story of some form behind them. From the collections of celebrities such as the 1940s screen siren Patricia Roc to the Late The Hon. Mrs Angela Lascelles, to collections from town houses and country estates, they all continue to generate great public interest. Essentially the Sunday sales enable clients to view, buy and take home, all in one weekend: an experience only offered at Christie’s.

What, in your opinion, makes the perfect collection sale?
The perfect collection for a Sunday Sale incorporates objects, furniture and pictures, all assembled by a discerning eye. We always look for interesting provenance and human interest as this is what resonates with buyers.

How did you become involved in Sunday sales?
Well, in 2005 Christie’s South Kensington commenced 7 days a week opening for viewings and sales at the weekend and we recognized this as an opportunity for our collection sales; there was a gap in the market. We started off slowly but surely in 2006 with small collections to test the waters and in 2007 took things an extra step with higher value consignments. I am pleased to say that we always have a great turnout for these sales and a great response from clients.

Going back a bit further, how did you first get interested in Collection and House sales?
I started out in Australia, working for a small sale room where I was involved in everything from valuations to cataloguing to selling the sales. This gave me great exposure to a broad cross-section of pieces. You could say I’m a specialist who is also a generalist, which is a bit ironic.

In 1997, I joined Christie’s Australia where I was able to develop by broad knowledge of art and antiques. In 2003 I took the plunge and moved to Christie’s in London.

My background has given me the ability to see beauty in all objects and I think the fascination for specialists lies in the story, or provenance, behind the object. I am lucky that I can study, hold and treasure these objects on a daily basis until the next one comes along…

Does a particular visit or valuation stand out?
I’ve always thought that visiting clients, especially for valuations is a bit like going on a treasure hunt and a visit to a particular client in Cirencester, who had recently passed away, proved me right. Whilst cataloguing various objects, I was struck by the beauty of a small pot on a windowsill with a cactus growing in it. No one else thought much of it but I decided to have a closer look and discovered it was a Kangxi Pale Celadon Glazed Jardinière dating back to the 18th century and had been ignored for years.

On another visit, I stumbled upon a lead doorstop, again something no one else was interested in. Impressed by the modern 1960s design, I painstakingly went through the owner’s diligently recorded inventory and eventually found what I was looking for, it was a Frank Dobson sculpture entitled Kneeling Figure, 1960, which later sold for an impressive £12,000.

If there was one item from one of your Sunday Sales that you could have sitting in your house right now, what would it be?
To be honest, having been a specialist for so long, I have come to find pleasure in getting the best possible price for the client but if I had to choose something, it would be the lovely Portrait of a Young Woman in a Red Tunic by Sir Augustus Edwin John, sold in a Sunday Sale in March 2007, although the finished version of this painting was sold in November 2003.

Where in the world has being a House sales specialist taken you?
All over really but I think one of my most enjoyable visits has been to Chateau du Fey in Burgundy which overlooked the village and was surrounded by woodland. We spent two days cataloguing the property but this was all done in beautiful surroundings and accompanied by wonderful Burgundian cooking and wines. Our hosts ensured we were well looked after!