FINALLY, AN AFFORDABLE ART AUCTION
Ever wondered what happens behind closed doors in those grand auction rooms across central London? Well now you don’t have to! The brilliant Auction Collective are bringing the art market back down to Earth with their affordable Auctions.
Their next auction is at Menier Gallery on 15th February, hosted by The Auction Collective & Narcissus Art. We are proud to announce that work from two OD artists Maria Lax & Alessandro Calvi will be available, framed.
We talk to the man with the gavel about what sets his auctions apart and the art of collecting…
Do you remember what it was that first made you interested in Auctions?
[Tom Best, auctioneer] The first auction I went to was a fruit and veg auction in my local village hall in Dorset. It was part of the harvest festival and my Dad was helping raise money for the village hall and church. It was, and still is, a wonderful event – apples, cider, jams and meats being sold in 20p bids! I started helping and was soon hooked. I had caught the auction bug.
Later, during my art history course at university, I started going to London to see the big auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. There was an incredible theatre in those rooms and an energy that made buying art both a fun process and a public celebration of the artwork being offered. I have been an auction addict ever since.
Is an auction a good place to start a collection? How do I spot a deal?
Absolutely and especially if it is someone’s first art purchase. Auctions are a great way to understand how artworks are priced – by seeing people bidding against each other you see the market demand and realise it isn’t just you that loves the artwork. This can give a boost of confidence and reassurance to a first-time buyer stepping into an unknown world, particularly with new artists.
How to spot a deal? Hopefully, there are never any ‘deals’ as the auctioneer will always work hard to make sure the artist/consignor is always getting the best price! But… from furniture to fossils there are so many things getting sold at auction that inevitably some pieces get overlooked.
Sign up to websites like The Saleroom (https://www.the-saleroom.com/en-gb), you will get notified when objects you like are being sold in auction rooms across the world. You can then pick up those hidden gems that get over looked by others.
Unfortunately, most people’s first choice when buying furniture is to run to the mega flatpack outlets. This is so frustrating, as beautiful furniture that has stood the test of time is going for a song in local auction houses. It is a great way to help recycle what is already in existence and, when you want to change it, you can easily put it back into the auction cycle rather than adding it to landfill.
You just have to be patient and keep an eye out.
You’ve worked for some of the big institutions and auction houses, what makes the Auction Collective different?
There are four major differences.
- The price bracket – we curate exhibitions and auctions at the more affordable end of the art market. The average starting price for the artworks in our next auction is £150-5,000.
- The artists – like an art gallery we work directly with artists and their partners to help them sell. This is known as the primary market and we are the first auction to do this.
- 0% buyer’s commission – in traditional auctions, buyers must pay a fee to purchase an artwork. This ranges from 15-25% extra of the final price. We’ve got rid of this. What you bid is what you pay. We see that extra fee as a barrier and added complication that stops people from bidding and owning art. By keeping the auction process as simple as possible we hope that this enables more people to have a piece of art in their life.
- Keeping it real – there is a big push at the moment to move auctions online. We recognise the catalytic power of the internet to promote artists and artworks. But we will always put together a physical exhibition and auction. We believe that when buying an original work of art, there is still nothing better than seeing it in person and nothing more fun than bidding for it in a live auction.
What kinds of people go to your auctions?
Artists, the art curious, Instagrammers, established collectors, new buyers… anyone who loves art. Our door is open to all.
A lot of artists come along to see how their work sells, meet people and support the other artists. In the last auction, one artist sold his work so well that he ended up bidding on everything else!
A range of buyers get involved from people looking to add something new and exciting to their collection, to people who have saved up to get one piece for a specific wall.
But don’t forget, the people at the event are only half the story. When people can’t make it in person but are wanting to buy, they send through their bids in advance or we give them a call during the auction. It is a very busy time!
What is the basis of this upcoming exhibition in February?
We live in a pretty bonkers world. The state of our international and national politics is terrifying. The added pressures on our daily lives of a 24-hour social media culture, combined with ever increasing demands on our work/life balances is relentless. From time to time we need to escape all this. Far From the Madding Crowd is a nod to exactly that.
It is an exhibition and auction of artworks based around a landscape theme. Landscapes, in their very nature are a form of escapism. The artist removes themselves from a scene, steps back and paints, sketches or photographs what they see – a voyeur of reality. It is through these landscapes that the viewer can also escape the madness, take a minute, stop and reflect. So we partnered up with Narcissus Arts, went out and handpicked 40 beautiful and affordable ‘escapes’ for people to come and see and then buy.
How do I make a bid? Can I bid before?
Bidding is really easy. If you can make it to the Menier Gallery on the 15th February, turn up for the auction at 7.00pm and wave at the auctioneer. If you can’t make it, then email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can either bid on your behalf or give you a call on the night.
What was it about Maria Lax’s work that caught your eye?
Maria Lax’s work is stunning. I love seeing her film making background influencing her photographs. I am a big fan of the thoughtful stillness of the Scandinavian film makers like Roy Anderson and the work of Ragnar Kjartansson. I think Maria’s work has a similar feel. Every photograph feels like a snapshot of a much bigger story and we, as the viewer, are lucky to witness this quiet moment within that. Maria captures these seconds with such confidence.
For me this was particularly evident in her Forest Bed and Pink Snow. Two moments of stillness of a much bigger picture. They remind me of a dramatic pause in piece of theatre or music. That pause before a character breaks forth with an energetic monologue or passionate embrace, or in music the suspense created with silence before a heavy bass line begins.
This stillness, and the absence of human form, is perfectly in line what I am trying to achieve with the exhibition.
Which artist would you compare Alessandro Calvi’s work to?
This might sound a little strange but bear with me on this one… one of the reason’s why I fell in love with Alessandro Calvi’s work was because of the minimalist nature of his compositions.
The compositions are so well balanced. He perfectly frames the objects within the landscape. For me, this talent for simplified arrangements is like the grandfather of minimalism himself, Giorgio Morandi. Morandi would spend hours arranging his still-lifes until they were perfect. He would then paint them at every different hour of the day to see how the light would play on the composition.
Alessandro’s work does just that. Look at the shadow’s on the bales of straw, or the cloud above the trees. If he had waited for the cloud to move just that little bit further, or the sun to set lower in the sky, or even take a slightly different view point, the image wouldn’t work at all. His skill in capturing these scenes is fantastic. I am so excited to have his work in the auction.
Have you ever bought something at auction?
Oh yes. My first auction purchase was when I was at uni. I bought a piano. It cost me £1 (well £1.25 with the buyer’s fees…). I was so happy until I realised I couldn’t get it up the stairs to my flat.
I’ve flirted with auctions ever since and I am a total sucker for them. I set my maximum price and am determined not to go any higher. But by the time it comes to the auction I’ve already convinced myself that the work is mine, so when the auctioneer says ‘One more?’ and I am well over my max bid I think…well of course, it’s mine anyhow!
What is your advice to someone looking to buy something for the house or to start a collection?
First thing, buy what you love. If you don’t like it and are just doing it for an investment move on and put that money into a ISA. Sometimes your artworks go up in value, sometimes they don’t. But if it is something you love then that doesn’t matter. Even worse than that, if you don’t like the work but are feeling pressure from everyone else to like it, don’t buy it. Art is such a subjective thing. Like with music, poetry or literature feel free to like what you like and point out when the emperor has no clothes on…
Secondly, make sure it is authentic! Or at least, if you know it is a reproduction, or part of an unlimited edition which is being churned out on a production line, then adjust your price accordingly.
Thirdly, look at the condition and quality. It is the same with any purchase, be that for clothes or a piece of furniture. Do some investigating, get up close and look at the quality of the materials and the condition. This is something that could be with you for the rest of your life. You want to make sure that it will last and age well.
Fourthly, just ask. There are a whole host of different art advisers, galleries and artists willing to talk people through buying an artwork. Just be aware of their subjective bias!
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Exhibition: 11.00 am – 6.00 pm, 13 -15th February
Auction: 7.00pm, 15th February
Menier Gallery, 51 Southwark St, London SE1 1RU
Average estimates: £150 – 5,000
To set up any bids, or for more information, contact: