06/01/2024 General News
We wasted no time getting back up and running after the Christmas break, with our first sale of the year on 2nd January seeing some brisk bidding for over 500 lots, writes Tim Blyth.
The auction world is certainly vibrant at the moment, and, as ever, it is evolving all the time. Antiques and Fine Art are, like so many other aspects of our lives, subject to changing fashions, and knowing what bidders are likely to get excited about is a big part of our profession. So what is likely to be hot in 2024?
Let’s start with Pictures and Fine Art. While good quality paintings from Old Masters continue to make good money, the real growth in demand is in Modern and Contemporary Art, where we have seen a new cohort of younger bidders driving up prices in the last year or two. And whilst a relatable, figurative subject matter will always attract buyers, abstract art is also finding a market.
This trend towards the modern is something we are seeing right across every sector of the market, redefining to a certain extent what we mean by the term ‘antique’. The second half of the 20th century may seem relatively recent to some of us, but it is a sobering thought that the end of World War Two is as far away from a buyer today as the Victorian era was for buyers in the 1970s.
I have written before about the appeal of post-war furniture, with Scandinavian design in particular in demand. The good news is that after several years in the doldrums, there is once again a growing market for quality period furniture, with Georgian pieces in lighter woods such as walnut performing particularly well.
The renaissance of the furniture market is completely in line with a growing trend towards sustainability. The antiques business is one of the greenest around, encouraging recycling, upcycling and re-use of older items in place of using resources to manufacture new ones. A new generation of bidders – and an increasingly aware older generation too – has environmental considerations high on their list of priorities.
It is probably a combination of that realisation of the inherent value of the pre-owned, alongside a quest for financial value, which is driving big demand for vintage watches and jewellery. During the years of economic crisis it was the intrinsic value of the metal or the stones which counted, but increasingly people are bidding on more aesthetic grounds for such items – which means that questions of design, quality and visual appeal are paramount. The same is true in the silver market, which has been very strong in the past couple of years, and will continue to be so into 2024.
One area where we will see continuity is the strength in the market for good quality ceramics, both from the top European names such as Meissen, Sèvres and Herend and English stars such as Royal Worcester, Royal Doulton, and Lowestoft. There seems no sign of a diminution of the insatiable demand from far eastern buyers for oriental ceramics.
Perhaps the biggest growth area in the business in the past couple of years has been an explosion in demand for ‘popular culture’. This broad category takes in movies and music, leading-edge design and art, sporting and television memorabilia and even early computers and video games.
Much of what we sell in our regular Popular Culture Sales might not be accurately termed antiques, but the demand for them, and the prices bidders are prepared to pay, show that his sector is becoming an important part of the auction world.