A collection of art and antiques from a private or corporate collection can be so much more than simply the sum of its parts. The reason? Those who feel the urge to ‘bring together in a group’ or ‘accumulate as a hobby or for study’ invariably leave a mark on their treasured possessions – a little pinch of stardust that is sometimes only discernible when the items are sold. It is the reassuring knowledge that time, connoisseurship or simply a ‘good eye’ may have been applied in the creation of a collection that appeals to future custodians.
Whether a collection is the long-term accumulation of an old titled family or the more recent product of corporate art collecting, it is these elements – the storytelling that surrounds so many art and antiques – that add both kudos and value.
But seasoned observers are aware that the ability to maximise that potential in the marketplace – and generate the extraordinary prices that only the competitive environment of the saleroom provides – is less than straightforward. Creating the necessary sense of occasion can often require experience, expertise and an international reach. In the past decade, many satisfied clients have trusted Lyon & Turnbull and Freeman’s with the auction of their collections, recognising a team with immense experience in the international art market. From the record breaking Drambuie collection of Scottish art to the spectacular Safford Collection from Vaux Hill, Pennsylvania, our joint track record speaks for itself.
"Hundreds if not thousands of companies collect art — but only a few make an art of collecting." - Forbes Magazine
Corporate art collections are often created to complement the mission and goals of the corporation itself, so it is no surprise that Avon, the global cosmetics giant, nurtured a photography collection that celebrated beauty seen through the eyes of female photographers. Avon, with its well-loved, popular beauty products and long history of empowering women by providing a means for financial independence, began compiling a photography collection in the late 1990s. Although relatively small (approximately 100 photographs in all) it contained significant pieces by some of the most important female artists of the 20th century and was displayed proudly in the corporate headquarters in New York. The collection was quickly recognized as an exemplary model of corporate citizenship and was exhibited at the International Center for Photography in 1997. Aimee Pflieger, senior specialist at Freeman’s, was overjoyed to have the opportunity to offer such an illustrious collection.
"One of my favourite aspects about planning an auction is finding a way to engage a wide range of clientele, from the novice collector to the seasoned bidder with extensive knowledge and experience. In that way, I found the Avon photographs to be a plum consignment; the artists came from diverse backgrounds and philosophical approaches, with pieces covering a range of photographic processes and styles; truly something for everyone. It was a pleasure to personally examine, research and catalogue each of the photographs, which included important pieces by photographers I count amongst my favourites: Cindy Sherman, Imogen Cunningham, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Berenice Abbott, Carrie Mae Weems and Sally Mann.
Offering the photographs together as a single-owner sale meant that they were presented in context. This provided Avon the chance to publicly present the collection which they had worked so hard to create, and in turn, it gave bidders a chance to take home artwork with a very special provenance. My clients expressed just how much they enjoyed seeing all of the works exhibited together, and within this single owner context we were able to achieve strong prices for Avon. One of the best surprises was learning that a portion of the proceeds were to be donated to the Avon Foundation for Women, the world’s largest corporate affiliated philanthropy organisation. Ultimately, it was so rewarding to work closely with the artwork, to find new stewards for them and to provide Avon the opportunity to showcase their noteworthy collection.”
"They listened to us, they exceeded their promises, and they were fantastic to work with!" - Caroline Borwick, vendor of The Blair Collection
Blair, the house, the family and its collection reflect nearly 1,000 years of Scottish history. Originally descended from a Norman knight, the descendants were to become inextricably interwoven in the history of Scotland. A unique aspect of the sale of the contents of Blair, like many house sales of this nature we have handled, is that many of the items on offer have a long history relating to the family and the house. This greatly increases the interest and therefore the value of these works.
Caroline Borwick, vendor of Blair commented after the sale; “In considering the contents dispersal at Blair, where the house had been in the family for almost 1,000 years, there was a lot we could offer in terms of personal insight. We had proposals from a number of the premier auction houses and we felt that the critical difference was that the Lyon & Turnbull team listened to us. They were helpful, constructive and always enquiring as to any insights we could offer. They were prepared to work with us very closely and the result was a very constructive team effort. We all learned a great deal in the process. The team was a pleasure to have in the house; helpful, efficient, organised, methodical and fun. They made a challenging time productive, and interesting.
Lyon & Turnbull were prepared to run with our ideas of shooting a promotional video (The Swords of Blair) which we featured on YouTube and on their website. This film had over 2,000 hits and we were able to forward that link to all our own contacts. The Lyon & Turnbull team trusted us with an idea that had not been used before which is a credit to their innovative approach and open attitude. The resulting sale not only exceeded the projections significantly, it was a fascinating experience and many items went to homes that particularly valued the provenance and the information we had been able to offer.”
"The appearance of a collection like this is a real testimony to what can still be done with focus and determination, even in today’s market." - Timothy Schroder, ex curator Gilbert Collection, London and LACMA, Los Angeles
The Chen Collection was the finest and most comprehensive single owner collection of Russian, English and European silver, Viennese enamels and rock crystal, and oriental works of art offered at auction for a generation. Works on silver, gold and enamels by Russian makers, such as Fedor Ruckert, Pavel Ovchinnikov and, of course, Faberge made up the first half of the collection. In the English section, makers such as Paul Storr, Paul de Lamerie, Benjamin & John Smith and Robert Garrard were just some of the star names represented.
Assembled over just fifteen years by Mr and Mrs Sinclair Chen, their collection was of the finest quality and of international importance. As such, Lyon & Turnbull arranged a publicity campaign to match, together with a tour of the collection, viewing at the Forbes Collection in New York; at Freeman’s in Philadelphia, and at our saleroom in Edinburgh, before a series of views, events and talks at the Caledonian Club in London where the collection was sold.
In the magnificent new wing of the club the collection shone. The sale was timed to coincide with ‘Russian week’ maximising the potential audience and borne out by a packed saleroom and record-breaking prices on the day. In tailoring the viewing locations and the selling venue to the collection, we attracted the right buyers at the right time.
"One of the most extensive art collections to appear on the auction market in recent years. The Deloitte Art Collection has great strength and depth due to its acquisition of the former Arthur Andersen Art Collection in 2002, which was one of the first Corporate Art Collections to be formed in the United Kingdom." - Nick Curnow, Managing Director of Lyon & Turnbull
The auction of Deloitte Collection of Modern & Contemporary Art was a major event in the corporate art market. Sold by Lyon & Turnbull at the Royal Academy in London in 2008, the auction attracted international interest and created several new auction records.
Deloitte, a global finance services firm, no longer had suitable space to showcase its art after moving to new offices. Lyon & Turnbull was invited to sell the extensive collection, which had been accumulated by the company over a 30 year time frame. One of the largest collections to appear on the market at the time, it was showcased at The Royal Academy in London; the result was a highly publicised auction that doubled pre-sale expectations by reaching a total of £870,000. Paul Roberts, Vice Chairman of Lyon and Turnbull, said, “Lyon & Turnbull’s proposal for the prime location of the Royal Academy’s Burlington Gardens won convincingly as the most charismatic scheme and the one which would capture the imagination of collectors, dealers and the art world as a whole and reap the best result. This auction presented a unique opportunity for all to purchase important works from one of the most substantial corporate art collections ever assembled in this country.” The collection featured paintings, prints and photographs by a variety of artists, including John Hoyland, Gilbert and George, David Hockney, and Mark Quinn, to name a few.
"It has raised the benchmark for prices for many Scottish artists." - The Daily Telegraph
The Scottish liqueur company Drambuie has a rich history that spans back more than 267 years to Bonnie Prince Charlie. Legend says the prince was aided by the chief of the Clan MacKinnon after he fell at Culloden, and, in thanks, the prince gave the gift of his liqueur recipe.
The corporate collection of Scottish art from Drambuie, sold by Lyon & Turnbull at auction in 2006, was one of the most important collections to hit the market in a generation. Before the sale, Freeman’s Vice President and Paintings specialist, Alasdair Nichol, commented; “The sale traces the complete history of Scottish art from Alexander Nasmyth and David Wilkie, showcasing the pace of artistic change from the ‘Glasgow Boys’ Hornel, Lavery and Melville, via ‘Scottish Colourists’, Peploe, Cadell and Hunter, to the intimate still lifes by post-war ‘Edinburgh School’ artists like Anne Redpath and William Gillies. It will also include a significant collection of Wemyss Ware, the distinctively decorated Scottish pottery, along with selected silver and furniture from Drambuie’s collection.”
The collection was met with huge interest by collectors, and after touring to London, Hong Kong, and Philadelphia, the auction was 100% sold, broke 18 auction records and doubled pre-sale expectations.
"The keen eye with which the late Malcolm Forbes and his son Christopher have guided the house and the collection through forty years has, in my experience, been unparalleled." - Simon Edsor, The Fine Art Society
Old Battersea House, the London home of the Forbes family, the US publishing dynasty, has a remarkable history. The house has played host to the world’s rich and famous, including Ronald Reagan and Elizabeth Taylor, a family friend, who stayed at the house when she was in London. The contents were collected by Malcolm Forbes and his son Kip Forbes over 40 years.
Over 500 artworks, including a magnificent collection of Royal paintings, letters and memorabilia were offered at auction by Lyon & Turnbull in November 2011. A painting by Charles Burton Barber of Queen Victoria on horseback with her personal servant John Brown, which she gave to Mr Brown as a gift, was one of the star attractions. During his lifetime Barber was regarded as one of England’s finest painters and received regular commissions from HM Queen Victoria. There were paintings by the Royal Family themselves, including HRH Prince Albert, HM Queen Victoria and the Royal Princesses. Personal letters and a large collection of Queen Victoria’s undergarments and stockings were also included. The black and white, hand-stitched, silk stockings with crests were favoured by Queen Victoria after she went into mourning over the death of Prince Albert, all made huge prices.
The collection was set within a country house style interior of sculpture, paintings and furnishings including a piano by C. R. Ashbee, played by Lord Lloyd Webber on the occasion of Christopher Forbes’ 50th birthday. Other items of note included an important painting by Sir John Everett Millais For the Squire and a painting by Sir Edward Burne-Jones The Princess Chained to A Tree both of which realised six figure sums.
After publicity events and viewing in the house, the whole collection was transported to the saleroom in Edinburgh where the interiors were recreated by our designers. Unprecedented interest online, particularly from the US, helped the sale to a 90% selling rate, exceeding expectations.
"Major city employers like Herbert Smith Freehills are using the visual arts as a new way of engaging staff." - Jessica Stockford, Head of Board Development at Arts & Business
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP have an extensive corporate art collection and a great love of art. As part of a review of their collection in 2013 the global law firm selected a number of works for sale at auction, including pieces by world renowned contemporary artists such as Bridget Riley, Patrick Heron, Terry Frost and William Scott. The proceeds of the sale have not only assisted with the revitalisation of the company’s art storage facilities but have also been reinvested in the future by offering support to graduate artists throughout the UK.
Lyon & Turnbull created a successful marketing platform by capitalising on the collection’s excellent provenance and were thus able to attract a significant level of attention for the sale. They cemented this by prominently displaying the company’s paintings in the Contemporary & Post-War Art auction catalogue which highlighted the works in question to good effect and provided Herbert Smith Freehills LLP with a fitting record of the deaccessioning of this section of their collection.
"Freeman's has been an excellent choice for the Lehman art and has generated results that have consistently exceeded expectations." - Bill Gordon, Senior Director at Alvarez & Marsal, New York
Lehman Brothers history of collecting art can be traced back to Robert Lehman, whose collection was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and who installed the Lehman Wing. Freeman’s collection ranged from a large selection of modern and contemporary paintings, prints and drawings, to a smaller group of American and fine European art works; items that once graced the Lehman Brothers’ boardrooms and offices in New York, Boston and Delaware.
An opportunity to purchase works from one of the most substantial corporate art collections assembled in the country, the auction drew over 2,000 bidders, resulting in a 100% sold ‘white-glove’ sale that highlighted artists from Roy Lichtenstein and Louis Lozowick to Robert Indiana and Robert Rauschenberg.
The success awarded Freeman’s further consignments from Lehman Brothers and Neuberger Berman. In 2003, Lehman Brothers acquired Neuberger Berman, and, as a result, integrated the firms’ two corporate art collections. The Neuberger Berman Collection at Freeman’s consisted of over 250 works of art from the London, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco offices. Among these were examples by leading artists of the 20th century, including Robert Mangold, Alex Katz, Sol Lewitt, and Judy Pfaff, as well as examples by artists whose works have become more internationally acclaimed over the last decade, such as Elliot Puckette, Vernon Fisher and Joyce Pensato. Both sales achieved a total that more than doubled the pre-sale estimate.
"The passion of the Lyon & Turnbull team made them a true pleasure to work with from start to finish." - Lady Rochdale, vendor of The Lingholm Collection
The Lingholm Collection was auctioned by Lyon & Turnbull in October 2013, on the instructions of Lord and Lady Rochdale. Highlights included 16th century majolica, early furniture and works of art.
Set in a dramatic location in the heart of the northern Lake District, Lingholm lies on the western shore of Derwentwater and has been home to the Rochdale family for over a hundred years. Built in the 1870s for Colonel J.F. Greenall of the Greenall brewing family, Lingholm was designed by Alfred Waterhouse (1830 -1905), one of the most successful and prolific architects of the Victorian period, whose most famous commission was the Natural History Museum in London. He was a favourite architect of the northern industrialists of the 19th century, designing country retreats for families looking to escape life in the city.
The estate was purchased by the Colonel George Kemp, later the 1st Baron Rochdale, grandfather of the current Lord Rochdale, in the early 1900s. The house was extensively remodelled at that time with wings knocked down and extensions made and improvements to the gardens. New features included a 15th-century ‘pietra arenaria’ fire surround from the Facchinni palazzo in Arezzo and oak panelling and carved mantelpiece purchased from Mallett & Son bearing the arms of James I removed from a former royal hunting lodge in Southampton. The interior is characteristically Renaissance chic, inspired by designer Percy Macquoid, who is thought to have worked on the property.
The 1st Lord Rochdale filled the house with his collection of early English and Continental oak and walnut furniture, 16th-century Italian maiolica and 16th/17th-century Flemish tapestries. The main sequence of tapestries depict scenes from the book of Genesis and hang in the impressive Stone Room, and it is thought the room was designed especially to accommodate them. One tapestry illustrates scenes from the Creation of Adam, the Temptation in the Garden, the Fall and Banishment from the Eden while another represents the birth of Cain and Abel, the Sacrifice and the murder of Abel.
"Chinese and Russian bidders dominate in sellout sale of an opulent Pennsylvania collection." - Antiques Trade Gazette
Atop a northern bank of the Schuylkill River sits Vaux Hill, a palatial manor with white columns surrounded by rolling grounds. The house was built on a site known as Fatland in 1776 by James Vaux, a wealthy Quaker from Philadelphia. George Washington stayed at the home during the Revolutionary War, as it was a strategic location for the Continental Army camped at Valley Forge. Over the years, the house changed hands from the Audubons to the Wetherills before Barbara and the late Robert Safford purchased it in 1991. “When we walked through the doors of Vaux Hill we could sense the history of the house, and it had a warm feeling about it. Then and there, we knew it was home,” said Mrs Safford.
The couple furnished their home with impressive pieces over the next 20 years, collecting art and furniture fit, and sometimes made, for royalty. Inspired by travels to Europe and castles and stately homes they visited, they found themselves drawn to fine English and Continental antiques. Highlights included decorative arts by the royal German and Russian porcelain manufacturers, and a number of objects formerly in the Hanoverian Royal collections.
The Robert & Barbara Safford Collection garnered superb media attention, and exhibitions in London and Philadelphia galleries opened with much fanfare. In addition, a short film was produced by Freeman’s and was distributed to key prospects and via the web and social media outlets. Buyers from around the globe packed Freeman’s saleroom and bid for over five hours on 274 works spanning two centuries, achieving desirable sales results and setting a new auction record for a KPM clock. The Robert & Barbara Safford Collection was a “white glove” success, with 100% of works sold.
"Many library managers are rising to the challenges of the new electronic age, divesting themselves of physical books and focusing on digitisation... a radical approach that is paying dividends, enfranchising a new readership and leading to a huge rise in library use." - Simon Vickers, Head of Rare Books at Lyon & Turnbull
Rapidly evolving technological change requires blue sky thinking. Library managers are confronting and rising to the challenges of the new electronic age, divesting themselves of physical books and investing massively in ebooks and online access. Paradoxically, this radical approach is paying dividends, enfranchising a new readership and leading to a huge rise in library use by technologically savvy students and researchers.
Some libraries, especially those with strong specialised collections, are reviewing their holdings and deciding which areas to focus their increasingly stretched resources on. Occasionally this will necessitate decisions difficult for any library professional – to sell material that falls outside their core collections. Although seen by some as a cardinal sin, this is enabling institutions to add to collections for which they are both known and used, and acquire new material that complements and enhances their existing holdings.
Lyon & Turnbull assisted the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in just this manner. From its foundation in 1784 the RCSI established a library, levying one guinea annually from members. The library was amassed by purchases and bequests over the following centuries and continued to be the working library of the College until the mid-20th century. The early printings cover significant developments in the history of European medicine and surgery, as well as natural history, travel and literature. Nowadays, the RCSI – a modern health sciences campus with the largest medical school in Ireland – is served by a library that is increasingly electronic. In 2011 they made a strategic decision to concentrate on their own archives and modern records – material that is essential and unique to RCSI – and to dispose of the antiquarian books.
"The sale of the Taffner Collection at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh was one of those extraordinary landmarks in Scottish art market history that will be talked about for years to come." - Will Bennett, Former Arts Correspondent for the Daily Telegraph
For an American couple with no hereditary links to Scotland, Don and Eleanor Taffner developed a remarkable passion for Glasgow – and Glasgow School of Art (GSA) in particular – after a chance meeting in the mid-1980s with Tony Jones, then Director of the School. He nurtured in them an interest in Glasgow and its art school, which they acknowledged with the creation of the Taffner Mackintosh Curatorship at GSA. They also supported the Mackintosh exhibition in 1996, particularly its tour of the USA, and provided funding to allow Mackintosh’s White Room from the Ingram Street Tea Rooms (restored for the 1996 exhibition) to be shown at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.
As collectors, the Taffners were blessed with a good eye and a decisive attitude. They took advice and made sure that each addition to their collection complemented the whole and brought something new to it. They rarely prevaricated over acquisitions and had great confidence in each other’s taste. Lyon & Turnbull’s relationship with the Taffners goes back many years and our specialist in charge, John Mackie, had been selling to them since the 1980s.
In conjunction with our colleagues at Freeman’s several trips to New York were arranged to catalogue, photograph and ship the items back to Scotland. From there they went on view in London at the beautiful Fleming Gallery in Mayfair where a series of talks and events were arranged. Afterwards, the collection returned to Glasgow School of Art where, in a packed private view, the Taffner family was able to witness the enthusiastic response of our Glasgow clients. Finally, the collection was transported to Edinburgh where the saleroom was decorated to complement the collection. The view was timed to coincide with the Edinburgh Festival to maximise the coverage and guaranteed that on sale day we had a packed saleroom. Alasdair Nichol, Freeman’s Vice Chairman and friend of the Taffners, was auctioneer at the sell-out sale, where several records were broken.