Friday, January 18, 2008

Summers Place Auctions takes over at Billingshurst

Billingshurst, West Sussex UK - JAMES Rylands and Rupert van der Werff have launched Summers PLace Auctions at the old Sotheby's site on the outskirts of Billingshurst.

"Summers Place Auctions, in association with Sotheby’s, are the world’s leading auctioneers of garden statuary and fossil decoration," says the press release. "Between us we have over a hundred years experience working for Sotheby’s. Held in the walled gardens and arboretum of Summers Place, currently being redeveloped by Berkeley Homes, our five acres of landscaped grounds form the perfect setting. Sales in May and October will include examples of the finest garden ornament and fossils with prices from hundreds to over £250,000."

Live 'fine lots' auction followed by sealed bid 'repro and lower value lots' auction

The proposed format of the sales is unusual in that the higher value prestige lots will sell in a live auction whilst the more humdrum stuff will be offered as lots for sealed bids in the same catalogue.

"It is our intention to slim down the live auction to 200 lots or thereabouts," James Rylands said. "We firmly believe that in the past we have only been as good as the worst lot in our auctions, and that these have dragged down the impact and price for the better lots. We also believe that prices for the better material have not really moved in the last ten years and that compared to other areas of the antiques market, when trying to make subjective judgments in terms of rarity and quality, that good quality garden and architectural ornament is under-appreciated and not as expensive as it should be. Most other auction houses have a sales mechanism for keeping the finer lots for a select sale whilst the rest of the material either goes into a secondary or general sale. In the past it has not been possible to change this model."

What will go into which sale?

"The fine auction is a live auction which will contain good examples of antique or period sculpture, together with some contemporary sculpture by known sculptors, seats, fountains, architectural ornament, urns, finials and fireplaces. The sale will contain more expensive pieces, but it is not all driven by price. If, for instance, we are offered a particularly rare and interesting garden tool worth £500 this may still be entered into the fine sale.

"The sealed bid sale will comprise modern or reproduction pieces including carved Vicenza - no matter how expensive, lesser examples of garden ornament such as sets of standard cast iron urns, most early twentieth century or later lead except Bromsgrove Guild, staddle stones and stone troughs, the more standard fossils including mineral spheres and Moroccan ammonites."

How does it work?

"The fine or live auction will work in the same way as before with commission bids, telephone and paddle bidders and will be held in the marquee. The next sale is on Tuesday 20th May and will be on view from the Friday prior. The sealed bid auction will be on view at the same time as the live auction but will be in a different part of the garden and clearly marked with lot numbers of a different colour to the live auction. It will be on view until Monday 26th May. Each lot will be illustrated and carry an estimate. Anybody wishing to bid will simply put how much they are willing to pay for it and the buyer will be the highest bid plus buyer's premium when the bids are opened on Tuesday 27th May.

"The sealed bid auction is a week later so that unsuccessful bidders in the live auction can bid for the sealed bid lots. It is not our intention that unsold lots in the live auction are put into the sealed bid auction the week later since they will not be in the catalogue or on the internet.

"Catalogues for the live bid and sealed bid auctions will be separate but posted out at the same time about a month before the live sale. We are redesigning the live sale catalogues with multiple images and one page devoted to most lots. The sealed bid catalogue will have up to eight images and descriptions to a page, but with multiple images of most lots available on the internet.

"The guiding principle for which auction lots will go into is that live is quality and sealed gives the opportunity to sell in quantity. For instance we have a few vendors who have large quantities of staddle stones to sell. At present we are limited to putting one or two lots in the live sales. In sealed bids we can have a couple of lots of staddles which may attract acceptable bids from a number of buyers. The top bid secures them but we are in a position to offer the underbidders similar staddle stones at whatever bids they left which are acceptable to the vendor. The same criteria may apply to some of the Vicenza stone pieces which are often made in quantity."

As well as live and sealed bid auctions, Messrs Rylands and Werff also aim to build up a portfolio of architectural structures and buildings for sale by private treaty.

"As you know we have always been enthusiastic supporters of Salvo," Mr Rylands said, "and of trying to preserve old buildings and structures albeit sometimes in by changing them into a different format or context. After numerous attempts to auction such items we have come to the conclusion that this is not best way since it does not give sufficient time for clients to plan and is too uncertain. Instead we aim to have a number of such items in each catalogue and also on our website. At present we have the most amazing carved Portland stone niche which we are trying to attribute to Christopher Wren."

And what of Summers Place . . .?

"Over the last few months we have had a new security fence and security system installed which now encompasses another couple of acres of garden which we are in the process of landscaping. We are creating a new wetland bog garden and a new dedicated area for contemporary sculpture and for sealed bid lots. So when people come in May it’s going to look quite different. Basically we are giving the whole place a complete makeover because we feel that’s what it needs. So far we have got some amazing things for our May sales and a whole bunch of good things in the pipeline. At this stage it hopefully is going to translate into our best sale ever but I’d rather not say that in case it doesn’t quite pan out that way!"

2008 sale dates
- 29th February: Closing date for entries for May auctions
- 20th May: Fine auction
- 27th May: Sealed bid auction
- 28th July: Closing date for entries for October auction
- 21st October: Fine auction
- 28th October: Sealed bid auction

Contact details:
Summers Place Auctions, The Walled Garden, Stane Street, Billingshurst, West Sussex RH14 9AB
Switchboard 01403 331 331. Fax 01403 331340
James Rylands and Rupert van der Werff, directors and experts
Letty Stiles and Kate Diment, assistants
Jason Stiles, collections and deliveries

Future web site

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