This is the auction we went to. The collection being sold – Lots 1-128 – belonged to someone whom the Sage had known for many years; indeed, he’d sold him a dozen or so of the pictures. It was a lovely collection; mostly of East Anglian painters and mainly land, sea and river scapes with a few still lifes and flower paintings. The ones I liked best were the Tom Smythes and the Campbell Mellons, and I’ve a soft spot for John Moore and Eloise Stannard. I also liked the Seago, which was Lot 128, but that was certainly well beyond even our wildest splashing-out range. In fact, we put in a bid here and there (not in the thousands) but didn’t buy anything.
Now I see the prices online, it’s interesting – the auctioneer mostly said if something wasn’t sold (and most pictures were) but sometimes, if a piece doesn’t meet its reserve, one doesn’t exactly broadcast the fact. The most expensive pictures were ‘sold’ for £88,000, but we didn’t believe it (the estimate was £100,000-£150,000) and I see that the lot has been announced as selling for £85,000. That means that they didn’t meet their reserve, the auctioneer tried to push them up against the reserve (this is legitimate, but pushing it once the reserve has been met is not, it’s totally unethical) but then spoke to the buyer and the bidder and brokered a sale after all at the lower price.
If you don’t want to look through all the prices, I should tell you that this was by far the most expensive lot and most of them were in the hundreds or low thousands. You might still protest that this is a lot of money for a painting but don’t look at these fairly low-price collectors, look at the people who blow thousands, or hundreds of thousands of pound on a party or a holiday or millions on – well, anything really. It’s easy come, easy go to them.
We saw a lot of people we knew. One chap said “hello” and I greeted him in return – it took a second to think why I knew him. He used, before his retirement, to be our MP. I always liked him. He was a very good constituent MP and was always willing to come to local events, even when he was a cabinet minister. Once, he came to open an extension to the village school. He was Secretary of State for Education at the time and he spent some time finding out my views on various current education matters. I was vastly gratified, the next week, to hear him in the House of Commons repeating some of the things I’d said. I’m not for one minute saying that I influenced his thinking, maybe I (with others) reinforced it but it was, in my experience, typical of him. He listened to people and considered what they had to say.
We also saw our good friends A & A, who used to have an art gallery in L’toft. They bought the house we lived in when we got married, and still live there 34 years later. A was with the Sprout* and me on our first visit to London together, the one that made us realise just how much we were starting to like each other…
Among the staff who were taking telephone bids was a man whose face I knew, but I couldn’t place him until A hissed “That’s him off the telly!” Indeed it was; someone who’s often on Fl0g 1t and similar vaguely antiquey sort of daytime programmes (did I mention that the Sage was once interviewed as an expert on that programme? It’s been aired at least 3 times, which makes people think he’s a regular). I can’t find a picture – it’s kraM yecatS (sorry, but I’d mislead unfortunate Google searchers by bringing them here). He is a proper antiques expert though, he’s not just doing it for show on daytime TV! The auctioneer was the woman mentioned in this article, who was excellent and had both authority and considerable charm.
All in all, then, a most enjoyable couple of hours. The pictures were all hung in the saleroom so I was able to have a good look before the sale started. Afterwards, I left the Sage having lunch with A & A and nipped off to have a quick look round the shops, but I wasn’t very tempted. I bought a pair of trousers and a top, but that wasn’t much considering I was in quite a buying mood. It would be silly to buy many clothes, in fact, as I still have weight to lose. Only one size down as yet, and a stone. 14 pounds. 6.4 kilos. It’s going though, and missing lunch isn’t a bad thing once in a while.
I only saw a few of the Norwich elephants (scoot over to Dave’s blog if you want pictures) but I wasn’t awfully impressed. They look better in the photos, I thought. Quite effective as street art, and I’m all for people being engaged in art – maybe they are a bit too spread out. I only saw a few of them as I didn’t have time to go all over the city centre.
*He became the Sage when he wisely married me