Following the challenges of 2020, Sworders approached 2021 with great hope, if not a little trepidation, just what was awaiting us in the new year? The answer was a year with easier trading conditions, but plenty of its own challenges, and demand for the items we offered remained strong, even as ‘working from home’ largely ceased. Prices for good and exceptional pieces have remained exceptionally strong, more ordinary pieces have often proved more difficult.
In fact, wonderfully, this proved to be the most successful year in our 240-year history, with our turnover increasing considerably, something we absolutely did not foresee at the beginning of the year.
The year really began to take off with the auction of the marvellously decorative contents of Badgemore Grange near Henley-on-Thames, so lovingly compiled by Sally Hunter and Ian Posgate. Amongst many highlights were a collection of atmospheric, early 19th century Indian watercolours of native birds which totalled £189,000, one of which appears on the cover of this publication. A set of twelve small lampshades, hand- painted by Quentin Bell, sold for £24,700, and this set the tone for the sale and the year where gloriously decorative and unusual pieces really thrived.
Our Asian Art auctions continue to be amongst the market leaders, with both of this year’s sales doubling pre-sale expectations - they will be joined in the spring by an additional sale dedicated to Japanese Works of Art. Modern and Contemporary Art continues to be highly popular as does 20th Century Design. These sales emphasise how demand can be global and parochial; Asian Art is almost exclusively repatriated to China and the Far East, whilst Modern Art, especially East Anglian pieces, remain much closer to home.
Having aimed to keep our carefully-assembled team together during 2020, we have added to it significantly this year with additions to our valuation, photography, marketing, portering and accounts teams.
We approach 2022, much as we approached this year, with hope and trepidation; what I do know is that we have some great auctions and surprising collections to offer. With a fair wind, we should, perhaps, be able to match what has been a wonderful year for us. I thank our hard-working and dedicated team for helping us achieve so much, and wish you all a safe and prosperous new year.