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Miracles Do Happen When You Are in Need!!


Deschamps Appears in The Last Expected Place and..

Believing in what you do is as important as success. That always brings success and I suppose my strong belief and faith in my art venture brought about the event below.

Bargain at my doorstep can pay for the Dawson

August 1987

A similar Deschamps

Gabriel Deschamps

(French, [1919- ] Twentieth century artist of French landscapes, well collected and popular at auctions in the UK. Auction price range £500-3000)

I was back in London that Saturday hoping that something else might happen quickly and the Dawson problem would be solved. Sunday for me was viewing of various auctions in two or three different places in London. That included North West Auctions in North London where from time to time the odd worthwhile painting appeared in their weekly auctions and nearly always at a bargain price. On that Sunday in August 1987 I was not expecting anything miraculous after the Saturday miracle at Eastbourne. A second miracle within days was too much to ask.

Nevertheless, Lady Luck was looking after me from above and I was moving around to make things happen. Covering nearly half the display wall of the auction was a huge impressive landscape with a style and colouring that was immediately recognizable to me. On approaching I was spellbound. There it was, signed to the bottom right G. Deschamps or Gabriel Deschamps. The painting looked magnificent, fresh, clean and straight from a home. That was the possible solution to the problem called Montague Dawson, but could I buy it at that ridiculous estimate? Would I be going back to Stacy-Marks again the following weekend? Deschamps was another one of his artists!

Monday evening and it was auction time. My hope was to buy the painting for nothing as only experienced traders knew who Deschamps was and Finchley auctions did not attract too many of those. I was sure of that. I waited patiently and quietly. Cool, cold and calculating, the hunter took aim hiding behind the large items of furniture. I wanted nobody to see me, to smell my presence. The situation was grave; I wanted the Dawson problem solved that very night.

The loud voice of the auctioneer Ross still echoes in my ears. Loud, crisp and clear. Why didn’t he become a singer? Great voice for that profession! Deschamps is in view and up for sale. “Thirty pounds I have,” he shouted out. Easy mister, I need a bargain, do not wake them up. “Thirty-two, thirty-four, thirty-six, thirty-eight … forty-five I have and I am selling at forty-five,” he boomed. The hammer came blissfully down and I became the owner of the Deschamps shy of fifty pounds, which included commissions. I can still see his beaming face. However, all the smiles were mine!

I walked out of the crammed auction to take a breath of fresh air. I could not digest the event. I could not believe that such conspiracies of luck happened to normal humans. How could I be so lucky and privileged? Lady Luck, my protectress, had provided me with another opportunity to raise the remaining sum for the Dawson painting. Luck had been good to me again, but it was also invaluable knowledge of art that enabled me to seize this opportunity.

Forty-nine pounds and a few pence I paid that very night and off I set with the beautiful Deschamps. What did I buy? The canvas, the paints, the frame or what? It was a ridiculously low price, but hey, that was auctions for you with the great opportunities offered to all.

My second trip to Eastbourne was as successful as the first one – no hassles and no arguments at £1500. I had struck another great deal with the old Stacy-Marks and solved an immense problem hanging over my head. Four trades within a month, under such circumstances, were not only hugely rewarding but also didactic.

· Sell to gulleries privately even if the profits might be slightly less.

· Knowledge of the stock of galleries is important.

· Daredevil investments might cause serious money problems and lead to litigation, if one fails to pay.

· Luck is an important ally, but knowledge is a battle winner.

Specialist theme sales are preferred

Three agonizing weeks it took me to fund the Dawson, but I enjoyed having it up on the wall in the meantime. I loved the subject, the style and colours. But it was not destined to stay there. The artist’s work was selling extremely well at auction. I needed a return on my investment so the Dawson was entered for Sotheby’s Marine sale of May/June 1988. I considered a specialist sale much better than a general one for several reasons:

· Serious collectors of that type of art frequent such auctions and prices climb higher, especially if an item is unique.

· Art unique to a nation in a specialist sale always sells better than in a mixed sale.

I consigned the painting with Sotheby’s in February 1988 with an estimate of £6-8000 and a reserve of £6000, reasonably hoping for a sale close to £10,000. The reserve guaranteed me a 75% profit.

The Dawson looked great in the catalogue. Unfortunately three similar watercolours by the same artist plus several oil paintings were also included in the same sale. I did not mind the oils, but the watercolours were an issue. Too many of the same thing in a sale was a disadvantage. Had I known that, I would have delayed the sale.

The watercolour sold for £6000 at the reserve. I was hugely disappointed, but still relieved that it had sold and returned me about £2500 profit, a good result, taking into account the after-effects of the October Exchanges crash. And more seriously, the Dawson had been a purchase with the profits from two other investments, so essentially it was all profit! Celebrate, cross yourself and say a big thank you amateur investor!

Making about 75% profit in less than a year was great! Selling the Penck in New York at the same time and making about £2500 profit or 50% also added to the beauty of dealing in art. Trading paintings of £50-8,000 value was very good business, since the returns were on average 100% and in certain special cases over 1000%. Did I carry on with that strategy or did I mess up? The years 1985-1988 were proving to be dream years with insignificant losses, if any at all, to major profits. Could it get any better? Would it get any better?

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