Suffice to say 2020 has turned out a little differently than expected. It has been a year of uncertainty and constant change, but an adaptable approach and enhanced digital solutions combined with a buoyant market for Art, Antiques and Collectables has allowed Tennants to hold 74 auctions in 2020 – only six fewer than the previous year.
The year started with a raft of sales including the ever-popular Country House Sale, the first of Tennants’ new Sporting Art Sales, which saw keen interest in a traditional subject matter, and the Dexter Collection of Ottoman, Islamic and Indian Interiors. In February, a new auction record for a print after L.S. Lowry was set in the Modern and Contemporary Art Sale when ‘Going to the Match’ sold for £25,000 (all prices quoted exclude buyer’s premium).
The Spring Fine Art Sale was held just prior to the start of the first Lockdown, in which clocks performed extremely well despite the challenging circumstances. Indeed, the market for good clocks in original condition and those by respected makers has remained very strong throughout the year. The top lot in the sale was a fine and rare William and Mary Walnut Marquetry Longcase Clock signed Daniel Quare, London, c. 1690, which sold for £18,000.
The first Lockdown resulted in a two-month break before auctions recommenced at the end of May. Since then, Tennants have held a mixture of live online only auctions and live auctions with bidders in the room, responding to changing Government guidelines. Unsurprisingly there has been a marked upswing in buyers using online bidding solutions, but what could not be predicted was the appetite for buying at auction across all sectors.
As buyers became more comfortable using digital solutions, with extra time for online browsing and an increased focus on the home environment, auction results strengthened markedly. Tennants’ fortnightly Antiques and Interiors Sales in particular have seen strong hammer totals, supported not only by increasing gold and silver prices, but by the prices for ‘brown’ furniture which are at a level not seen for the last five years. Specialist collectors’ sales have seen remarkable results, too, with 20th Century Design, Books, Coins, Scientific, Musical and Toy Sales all realising sale totals greatly exceeding pre-sale estimates. Highlights included a Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson 1940s/50s English Oak Writing Desk, which sold for £10,500, a first edition, second issue of Anne Bronte’s ‘Tennant of Wildfell Hall’ from 1848, which sold for £5,400, and The John Barker Archive of Textile Designs, which sold for £8,500.
2020 also saw the successful introduction of the stand-alone Fine Jewellery, Watches and Silver Sale and Traditional Pictures Sale, the latter seeing exceptionally high levels of interest, outstanding prices throughout and a 97% sold rate. The top lot of the sale was a still life Attributed to Simon Pietersz. Verelst (1644-1710), which saw a frenzy of bidding before finally selling for a hammer price of £30,000.
Looking forward to 2021, Tennants are opening the year with the Country House Sale, the Jewellery, Watches and Silver Sale, and the single owner sale An Historical Collection of Taxidermy and Natural History from Hodnet Hall.