Thirty Years on But What Has Changed in London?

                 London and United Kingdom a Country of Auctions, a Country of Opportunities

Cloudy, moody skies salute me first thing I open my eyes and looked out of the window. What a torture London's weather can be at times. Winds howling all night, rain lashing against the window panes that suffer mercilessly the wrath of the elements. Wrapped in bed, late morning and wonder how working people get up at six am to head to work. I am sorry guys, I really am, but take courage and know well; we all did it at some point in our lives. Yes, begrudged it at times, yes loved it and enjoyed it at others but always happy and satisfied that I had a job to go to and some duty to society to try and help the young to face the future with hope and aspirations in life.

11.00am, 12th January 2015

Dared to get out of the house and already the decision is made. I will drive to a small local auction in North London. Nearly never a bargain there but, that is when the bargain appears and when everybody has said: There is nothing there, I am not going there again. Never say that. Always be positive, always hope that special something is waiting for you to own it.

Traffic!! Where has all this traffic appeared from? Rain and wind punish the small car and I feel like trembling in spite of the warm space inside the car. Slow progress and more traffic but I am determined, even though pessimistic of any bargain waiting for me. I had my bargains long time ago and when most of us were unaware of the opportunities. Nevertheless, there are still plenty out there and I am one of those still going to auctions, fairs and whatever to unearth the treasure.

No,no, No! I am not going to become a millionaire now. Who wants that curse anyway? It is the satisfaction of finding the elusive miracle. It's the satisfaction of beating the opposition, I suppose. Still traffic and unusually a lot more than normal on my way to this auction. Cars all over. What's happening. Nowhere to park around the auction. Then I spot it. Parking restrictions all around, newly introduced. Lash rain, lash! Blow wind, blow and vent your angers and frustrations against my car and the poor leafless trees.

Round and round the auction to find that minute parking space which finally appears just about fifty metres from the entrance to the auction. Good omen, I say but, I am not that sure what's inside the huge hangar that has been turned into an auction some twenty years ago. No, this is not a prime auction and definetely not Christies, Sothebys or Bonhams.

Entrance unimpressive. Offices small and two or three secretaries hiding behind, at their offices. The man at the desk just inside the viewing room is cursing his luck and his being in that position. Yes, one pound sir. That is what it cost me to get the small booklet called catalogue. About five hundred items from beds, to chairs, from vases to plates, from prints to large paintings and more, plus a lot more are catalogued.

 

Hungry! Hungry to see Fine Art!!

I am not interested in anything else but the Fine Art of the auction which is at the far end. Will there be anything for this hunter? Impressions from the distance are good. Several big old master copies around. What are they? Where did they come from? 

Interesting, indeed interesting but also big, really big for many a house anywhere. No artists attributed to. No artists signed them; no artist inscribed them. Just one clue and this is mine. They were part of a big hotel as the label on reverse said: Suite 12, suite 10 etc. They were decorating a hotel in earlier life and now up for grabs. Not for me as they are too big and I have No room for such canvases but..

At the price of 50-80 pounds, they were great investments. Sorry! Pass!! Pass and onwards to more paintings. Unknown to me. I marked down the names  of three oil painting. The estimates are so rediculously low. Are they worth any money? I could not say at that moment. Not the declining memory bank but why do I have such an impressive bank resource and other available resources?

Three possible lots and I am on my way out. Stop, looked well and yes!! The candelabra, the pair of candelabra there. Exactly similar to the ones I sold some thirty years ago for 14.00 pounds. This time their estimate was 40-80 pounds. HM, not bad, had I kept them then.

I look around to see a familiar face, but No. Plenty of busy bodies and faces. Plenty of eyes with magnifying glasses checking signatures, stamps and jewellery. This is a different world; this is escape to a new world that invites you and tempts you to part with your money and acquire things you like but also hope to make money from.

Better get out of the place as the temptation kills me!!

The search continues tomorrow!!

 

14th January 2015

Knowledge is a valuable commodity, indeed very valuable and it usually translates into money. There were two lots of paintings that interested me but nothing to tell me that the artists were known and of merit. Lot 136 was by a Dutch artist but the books, the records said very little about him. Thus I forgot all about him and started a serious search fro the modern English artist with two pieces of good canvases in the same lot.

Paul Sutton, estimate 25-50 pounds

Two canvases of 50 x 60 cm in a good style and good landscapes. Both framed and both attractive. I liked them and so my search was thorough, Nothing here, nothing there and nothing everywhere. Did it matter? The frames were worth about 50.00 each but where is the space in the house?

Well, had the paintings been anything close to 70 x 100 I would have bought them at 100.00 and keep them for the future or re-sell them as decorative pieces. Sadly, I decided not to add two more paintings to the the so many in stock, as there is NO room for more!!

Be back next week!

Ignorance is Bliss for An Amateur

12th January 2015

First auction investments - ignorance is bliss!

Late October 1983, Lewes, Sussex

Three days before attending the auction at Lewes in October 1983 I visited my bank and insisted on seeing the manager for a temporary loan of £2000 there and then.  I was a newcomer to England and knew nothing about how loans were made and how one approached the bank manager for a facility. However, I had the audacity to demand to see the bank manager, at that moment and on that day, which happened luckily!  He was a gentleman in his fifties who, I assumed, saw many people like myself.  I explained my problem quickly and in a few minutes he addressed me warmly, smiling and with concern,

“ Mr Constant, I do not know you. You are new to our bank. You have two accounts with us. One has two pounds in it and the other one zero.  I cannot lend you any money. Go and do whatever you wish to do with antiques and auctions and come back in six months.  If I see the progress I expect in your accounts in this business idea of yours, I will lend you £10,000, not just two.”

I was disappointed, to say the least!  I was extremely angry with the man. How dare he tell me that and reject a request for such a small loan?  It was a setback! There was no money from anybody.  I had to do it with my own funds. Perhaps it’s better like that, I admitted to myself.  Make it on my own, like I always did. That was it!  No thousands of pounds to invest in antiques! No loans! No overdrafts and significantly no bank to hassle me about what I was doing with my own money.

It was the last week of October and my friend and I made our way to Gorringes auctions in Lewes, East Sussex.  We had the same passion, the same goals and ambitions! Buy antiques for profit, whatever took our fancy and looked good. Both of us had no idea about antiques or art; we were naïve and adventurous but we were not aware of that. Were we rich? Absolutely not! It was a struggle to survive and make ends meet for both of us - I, as a supply teacher, and he, as a property developer.

How ignorant we were!  How happy we were in our ignorance!  Nobody to ask for advice, nowhere to look for information, nobody to volunteer a bit of caution and a caring word; worst of all we felt we knew everything! If this sounds familiar, please be careful and carry on reading.

I had £210 in my pocket, my own hard-earned money. That was all the money I had in the bank. Yes, the total amount I had left from one month’s work and I took it all out to invest in antiques about which I knew nothing!  Aren’t I glad I had no more money to spend!  Wasn’t that bank manager wise! Was I so clever or that naive?  I can say now, with no shame, “I was very ignorant and naive.”  I had no idea about antiques or art.  My knowledge was absolutely nil, non-existent!  Yet, I was going to invest the only money I had in the bank.  Irresponsible, to say the least!

Prices in those days were low compared to today.  Computers were rare, the Internet non- existent in any form or way for research.  The only thing that helped me was a good eye for spotting beautiful things, which by the way most of us can do.

The drive to Lewes was pleasant. The conversation was about the items we had planned to buy.  Soon enough we arrived just outside Lewes.  High up above the town the narrow road slowly descended under a golden canopy of trees to reveal the picturesque town of Lewes nestling in the distance.  As we approached I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of this town and its surroundings.  The old centre with its narrow streets, historic houses and quaint small shops continued to delight as we drove through. 

We eventually stumbled on the auction house as we made our way through the winding main street of Lewes.  Gorringes auctions looked unimpressive from the outside. The premises spoke of an old house and an old auction business.  Inside was no different.  Furniture crammed the rooms downstairs as well as upstairs, and displayed throughout, wherever there was space, were vases, pots, porcelain, paintings, jewellery, books, wine and what else. A mixed sale of everything!

Where do I start? Which items do I target?  Where was the edge?  Where was that extra something, that special knowledge in me to make this new passion work?  I had no idea, not a clue!

The auction prices of most items in that first auction were way beyond my means and my pocket. In spite of that I managed to buy a pair of vases, two pictures, a Chinese bowl, and I cannot remember what else. Oh, yes, a large Arab/Greek looking bronze tray, which I still have. It cost me two pounds, dear readers. I still treasure it. My friend did exactly the same thing and we generally spent good money for things nobody else wanted to buy. That, of course, we did not know in our naivety. We spent the whole day at the auction and after paying for our purchases we started packing them happily into boxes for the trip back to London.

The auctioneer did know about prices and the value of items.  On approaching us he stated jokingly and somewhat concerned, “ Hi chaps! I see you bought many different things. I hope you knew what you bought!”

Oops! The truth was starkly spoken!!

I looked at my friend, he looked at me while we were packing our purchases and in unison laughed his remark off and cursed him quietly in our own lingo! How dare he? What does he know?  Obviously, we thought the auction arena was just for us to roam and prosper, just like that.  That remark of the auctioneer was a wake up call. I knew nothing, I had no experience and I had to knuckle down and work hard, if I was serious about auctions and auction markets.

The auction baptism was fortunately not a drowning one!  The mish mash of vases, bowls, watercolours and oils proved worth the experience. I sold all those items, except the tray. I made a little profit, but the most came from a lovely painting I bought for £10 and sold for £60 soon after. I cannot remember the artist, but it was a very good return at that time. The pair of modern vases was really attractive. The same auction that sold the candelabra for me managed to sell them for £60 soon after, thus doubling my £30 investment, minus about eight pounds selling commission. I was really pleased with those results. It boosted my confidence and my belief that whatever looked pretty could make profits. It also partly covered my petrol and car costs to various small auctions in London.

It was an expensive business when catalogues cost one to five pounds each and any trip outside London cost a minimum ten pounds. It was expensive when buying and selling through auction with commissions and other expenses totalling about 20% of the trade. There was a family to feed and a household to set up. There were car expenses and personal expenses. Making ten pounds from time to time was not enough. However, supply teaching brought the money in and made it possible for me to pursue the dream that was just beginning to emerge and take vague shape - become a dealer and investor in antiques and art while still teaching.

It was a struggle but which beginning is not?  Nevertheless, the decision had been taken! Trade in antiques! Was making a few pounds per item sufficient enough to cover my costs?  Experience would tell me soon enough!  It was not worth my troubles unless I concentrated on one area and one area in depth.  Antique furniture was out of the question.  It was bulky, needed transportation and warehouse facilities, and prices, although good, were not exceptional. Porcelain, jewellery etc I did not find interesting enough.  Art, however, I loved.  It was easy to store and transport and most importantly the most promising and lucrative.  Although I was a novice, I concluded that:

·        There were plenty of art auctions worldwide which offered plenty of opportunities and the potential to make money. 

·        Profits from paintings were good, even though I had only minor experience of this myself.

·        There was a chance to buy that lost masterpiece or that sleeper nobody spots, the dream of every art investor! 

 

·

Freedom of Expression- Freedom of Humanity!!

                            I am Deviating for Serious Reasons

Freedom of information, Freedom of the Press and humans was violated fatally over the last couple of day in Paris, France. We are not surprised, as this is the intention of many all over the globe; stop Freedom of the individual, so that the ones in power can dictate to us ordinary humans what we do, what we say and how we live!!

FREEDOM Fighters in Constantinople, 1860

 

FREEDOM is attacked from all sites and that is why Greeksinart is a site of FREEDOM for all! Slavery in all its forms is alive and thriving in contemporary forms and all of us need to stand up to it and fight back! The Paris attacks were a deliberate attempt to silence the press and mass media. That is unacceptable and we condemn it!!

Oil on Canvas or on Paper? Does it Matter?

Should it matter? Why is it so important?

Thus the oil painting is not painted on canvas but on paper. Therefore there is a difference, a minute difference/detail, which in the art world makes a big difference in value. Really?

No, the oil painting was not painted on panel/wood as described but on canvas and then laid down on panel. Does it matter at all? Surely, it is the same painting, the same artist and consequently is of the same value. Well, ideally it should not make much difference but it does and in many cases a very big difference!

Why does it matter as my story will say? Who says it matters so much? How come it does?

To be continued tomorrow 9th January 2015

It is a well accepted fact that fine oil paintings are generally more expensive that watercolours or acrylics but that is not a rule. Many artists are recocnised mainly as watercolourists and so their prices are higher for works in that medium. That is also the case for other media of execution for certain artists, who made their name by specialising in one type of medium and art.

The above statement makes it easier for the readers to understand why the market, the collectors, the investors are very specific in their investments and demands. Endurance and a better medium is always preferred by artists of importance. Thus Old Master oil paintings of today are better preserved and survived better , if painted on panel/wood. Not only the material is more durable but also much better to paint on and get images sharper, colours sharper and a longer life.

Thus we arrive to the difference of oils on canvas and paper in today's market. Canvas is a lot more durable than paper and therefore much more preferred. The markets are specific about this matter and that is reflected in the prices achieved by pieces of fine art by the same artist when painting on different media. Preference today is to canvas. Work on paper is unfortunately less popular and therefore less expensive.

Thus the call from Sothebys about the work of a famous contemporary artist I am involved with came as NO surprise. The painting in question is Oil on Paper not Oil on Canvas and that affects the price considerably. In their view the work is about three times less valuable than if it was painted on canvas. What could I do in a situation such as this since I knew that the market is so specific and so demanding. The collectors like canvas not paper and they avoid it!

It is a fact, it is reality that auctioneers accept and carry on with their business. The painting in question looks as good as a painting on canvas but thick paper looking like canvas is different and so we believe a new lower estimate will see the painting selling!

I will come back to this issue in February and after the painting has been offered for sale!!

When is Not an Investment a Gamble?

Where Does a Gamble Stop or When is a Gamble a Gamble?

6th January 2015  to 7th January 2015

The plan to invest in a piece of art starts most likely days or weeks in advance unless you are too busy to look weeks earlier or you are unaware of a possible gamble/bargain until a few days earlier. To speculate is part and parcel of everyday life. That is where fortunes can be made but also can be lost. Fine art has a large element of speculation in it and subjective view and opinion plays a major role. Is this correct, is it worth that much etc.

No such situation here with the Bonnington watercolour at Ewbank's auctioneers in Surray.  The estimate is low, the watercolour needs research of months and therefore, only a speculative bid in the low hundreds is reasonably expected in the rooms. However, nobody knows at this stage where the bidding will stop, if experts have spotted the item and research is being carried out at the moment these lines are inked.

Be back with what happens tomorrow!!

 

8.30 am on 7th January 2015

 

All up in the air. Plans, thoughts and gambles off, blown up! Up in smoke , up in the air and disappeared last night. Loved ones have the first place in ones life and that is what happened at 6.00 pm yesterday. Five hours at the hospital with my wife. Eye problem. Serious eye problem and I am back there at 9.00 today. I will be back in the evening with my news and also what happened with auction at Ewbank's. That is life as we all know!!

Apologies to all. 

8th January 2015

The auction took place but lot 232 w/colour attributed to Bonnington failed to sell. That is not surprising as perhaps the ones who know the work of the artist very well did not think it was close enough to the artist's work.