Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Georgiana Aitken on Antiquities at Christie's

Nick Gilbert has made a minor, though significant alteration to his post of 16th February 2010 on the heritage Key blog where he interviewed Georgiana Aitken, Head of Antiquities Sales, at Christie’s South Kensington (interestingly Heritage Key also features her sister Fiona). Anyway Ms Aitken tells him that today "antiquities are much more affordable and accessible than people would think" though does not dwell on why that might be. Apparently "the Antiquities market has remained buoyant with strong results in 2009 and higher demand than ever for material with good provenance[...]. Antiquities offer a tangible store of value that can be cherished and enjoyed, and that can also provide significant financial returns in the medium to long term". She adds that it is no longer museums or dealers that are doing the most buying at Christie’s. In their October 2009 sale: "private buyers bought 73% of the sale by lot".
How does the process work to get things to auction? If I came to you with a statue and claimed it to be from classical Greece, for example, what is done to assess its authenticity and then value?

GA: Our team of specialists have many years' experience assessing objects and would be able to tell in some cases instantly if a piece is wrong or right. There are specific tests we can perform on terracotta and wood, and in a case of doubt we would call upon the British Museum or a specialist in a particular field for a second opinion. Value is determined by rarity and quality. We bear in mind market trends and where possible take into account prices that similar pieces have realized at auction.

HK: I would imagine it's pretty rare to see new and previously unknown artefacts come to sales, or can experts be surprised by the objects which arise from private collections?
GA: Due to the nature of the industry (we do not sell recently excavated or newly discovered material) it is true that completely new discoveries are rare as many important pieces in private collections are known from catalogues and publications, like for example Michaelis's Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, pub. 1882, or have been exhibited. Occasionally undiscovered pieces do come to light from private collections where the owner was unaware of what was in their possession, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

[The editing is in the addition of the reference to the Crosby Garrett helmet, note that when it was sold, the British Museum was well and truly involved in the process of authentification and legitimising it as a British-found piece]. Then the black humour begins:
HK: Aside from at auction, what are the best places to shop for genuine antiquities?

GA: Auctions tend to be the safest way to buy antiquities as you can be certain the auction house has performed full background research for each object. However, other options include registered dealers, Portobello market in London and the internet – but it is always important to make sure the seller is reputable before making a purchase.

Hmm. (Photo: - Source: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe September 12, 2010)

1 comment:

David Gill said...

For a 2008 quote from Aitken (after the Geddes sale) see here

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.