Highlights Around the Auction World: January 2021

James Ardis
Published on
Collage of images from around the auction world. Photo credit from left to right: Artcurial, Vectis Auctions, and Sotheby’s. Collage by Heemin Moon (Auction Daily).
Collage of images from around the auction world. Photo credit from left to right: Artcurial, Vectis Auctions, and Sotheby’s. Collage by Heemin Moon (Auction Daily).

Many auction houses entered 2021 with quiet optimism after their industry proved more resilient than most in 2020. The industry’s quick shift online, both to host auctions and to publicize eye-catching lots, deserves much of the credit. In January 2021, these trends continued. Auction houses such as Artcurial and Ahlers & Ogletree enticed bidders worldwide with non-traditional pieces, often coming to auction for the first time.

What else did the first month of the new year bring the industry? Auction Daily breaks down some of the most noteworthy trends and events around the auction world in January 2021.

Industry Trends

U.K. auction houses and galleries now have a better idea of what the post-Brexit art market looks like. Still, some key questions remain. For example: What compounding effect will the COVID-19 pandemic and leaving the EU have on the industry?

Illustration collectors had a lot to choose from at auction this January. That included a Tintin drawing, which set an auction record with Artcurial. Swann Galleries also kicked off the new year with an Illustration Art event.

William Pène du Bois, Big Eyes…; Big Hands…; Big Teeth….; Little Red Riding Hood, pages 20-25, undated. Image from Swann Galleries.
William Pène du Bois, Big Eyes…; Big Hands…; Big Teeth….; Little Red Riding Hood, pages 20-25, undated. Image from Swann Galleries.

Returning stolen artwork to its rightful owner can often be a decades-long struggle. This is particularly true of pieces looted by the Nazis during World War II. Auction Daily looked at restituted art, its journey back home, and how some works eventually make it to auction.

Auction Highlights

Ahlers & Ogletree presented salvaged artifacts from the RMS Carpathia. A porthole, binoculars, and even pieces of coal recovered from the ship crossed the auction block.

Salvaged first-class soup plate from the RMS Carpathia. Image from Ahlers & Ogletree.
Salvaged first-class soup plate from the RMS Carpathia. Image from Ahlers & Ogletree.

Vectis Auctions kept the holiday spirit alive in January with its 500+ lot Doll and Teddy Bear sale. Joanne McDonald of Vectis guided Auction Daily’s readers through the decades of playthings represented in the auction.

Looking to push the boundaries? Christie’s presented outsider art from Bill Traylor, Thornton Dial, and others in a sale this month. Auction Daily used the occasion to look at the history of outsider art at auction.

Clementine Hunter, Sunday on Cane River, Louisiana, 1955. Image from Christie’s.
Clementine Hunter, Sunday on Cane River, Louisiana, 1955. Image from Christie’s.

Quote of the Month

“We’ve learned that online auctions are more popular than ever before and that a pandemic can bring you a pretty healthy viewing audience when it comes to a live-streamed sale… I’ve also learned that I need to write a few new jokes for the viewers at home. The same old material is getting a bit stale.”

Potter & Potter’s Gabe Fajuri on the lessons he learned in 2020 and is taking with him into 2021.

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Writer
James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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