07/10/2022 General News
Whilst we all claim to be interested first and foremost in the artistic merit, aesthetic appeal or historical importance of lots which go under the auctioneer’s hammer, it is always one thing that grabs the headlines: the price at which the hammer came down. And it is invariably the ‘big ticket’ items which make the headlines.
An auction house like Keys will see many thousands of lots pass across the rostrum during a year, ranging from the prosaic to the aspirational. And whilst the former is in many ways the ‘bread and butter’ for most auction houses, how seriously you are taken in the wider antiques and fine art world is largely dependent on the latter.
Flagship ‘Fine Sales’ are so important in showcasing the most sought-after, rarest, highest-quality items. When bids soar into the thousands, tens of thousands or even higher, the buyers are unlikely to be the same people who enjoy coming to the saleroom (either in person or virtually) to bid on affordable items for their more modest (but equally well-loved) collections. It really is a case of horses for courses.
If an auction house wants to compete with the big London players to attract high-rolling bidders, then it has to make an effort. Although the internet has in many ways levelled the playing field, initiatives such as top-quality glossy printed catalogues, professional photography, private viewings, and international social media campaigns all need to be part of the equation.
In reality, it is only what the trade bible Antiques Trade Gazette calls the ‘Top Tier’ regional auction houses who have the expertise and the reputation to do this. The dozen or so UK firms who fall into this category (Keys was named ‘Top Tier’ by the publication shortly after we launched our bespoke online bidding platform KeysLive) are the ones who can attract the international clientele who are vital to make high-end sales successful.
At Keys we hold a three-day Fine Sale three times a year, the last of which takes place at the end of November. These are among the largest, most valuable and most prestigious auctions held in our region, and are a magnet for serious bidders because they contain top-quality lots right across the spectrum, from fine art, furniture and ceramics, through to jewellery and watches, glassware and decorative items.
It is a mark of how global an audience we have built up for these sales that in the past 12 months we have despatched items to over 100 different countries worldwide. In particular the sales attract a large number of bidders from the Far East and especially China, with Chinese ceramics and other items regularly becoming the subject of fierce bidding battles.
We are proud to put Norfolk on the map with our flagship Fine Sales, showing the world that the county can compete with even the leading players in the market. For three days every four months, the eyes of the fine art antiques world are on our county, underlining Norfolk’s ‘Top Tier’ status.