The Cheffins Fine Art department saw a record setting year in 2021. Here, Martin Millard gives his review of art and antiques sales over the past 12 months. 

“2021 was a year like no other for the Cheffins Fine Art Department. With gross sales of over £11 million, we saw a new house record set and the average lot price soar as the market for antiques, artworks and collectables continues to gather pace.

Thankfully for us, antiques are in. Nostalgia is the feeling of the moment and sustainability is at the top of everybody’s agenda. This has been proved by the obvious growth in younger buyers heading to our sales, both in person and online. We’ve seen over 1,728 new buyers come to Cheffins this year, particularly as millennials and Gen Z look to purchase pieces with history and a story, whilst minimising their impact on the environment.

This led us to launch our Trendspotter series, where we pick apart the latest trends in interiors by analysing what is selling well in the current market. Recent themes have included grand tour antiques, tapestries, patterned tableware and mid-century furniture, all of which have seen rising prices as it grows in popularity. However, whilst trends may come and go, curated sales and fresh to market collections have continually set the bar when it comes to values, and this has been proved consistently at our Fine Sales throughout the year.

Bronze ostrich from the workshop of Giambologna, sold for over £1.4 million at the Cheffins Fine Sale in April

2021 saw some big hitters, with perhaps the most noteworthy being a bronze sculpture of an ostrich, from the workshop of Giambologna, (pictured above) which sold for over £1.4 million at the Fine Sale in April. The same sale also saw what is believed to have been Thomas Gainsborough’s first self-portrait being knocked down at £90,000. Both of these lots drew worldwide attention and helped to put Cheffins on the map as a go-to auction house for high value pieces. In fact, each department saw price rises and newsworthy lots throughout the year, with the Art & Design sale offering an early painting by Pink Floyd founding member, Syd Barrett, which sold for well over it’s pre-sale estimate and the Jewellery, Silver & Watches Sale offering items with royal connections throughout the year.

As post-pandemic homes are now centred on being cosy and comfortable, mixing old with new and embracing objects which we love, we have seen consistent growth in our average lot price, particularly at our monthly interiors sales which offer value for money with quality furniture and decorative items. Gone is minimalism and maximalism is back in a big way. With buying old being the environmental choice and also the best option for the budget conscious, the average number of new buyers at these sales has doubled month on month. As the interest in craftsmanship, original works and the rejection of mass-market items continued, we launched our first Affordable Art Sale in the summer, which was a resounding success and saw one of the highest number of buyers at any sale throughout the year.

We have also seen that working with third parties has helped to promote our sales to new audiences. For the Affordable Art sale, we worked alongside block printer and fabric designer, Molly Mahon, which helped to draw new buyers to the auction, whilst for the December Fine Sale we worked with interior designers, Benedict Foley and Daniel Slowik. This large-scale project ensured that the December Fine Sale saw more buyers than any other auction throughout the year in attendance and created a real buzz online and via social channels. This went to show how putting antiques into context, in a room setting, can really help people to see the potential of these pieces for their own homes and helped to ensure that Cheffins is a favoured option for private buyers and also interior designers working on behalf of clients. 

Collaboration with Benedict Foley and Daniel Slowik for the December Fine Sale 

It is difficult to say what 2022 will bring, however, I forecast that the trend for maximalist homes and the emphasis on quality and originality will continue, and we will see a consistently buoyant market for the items which we offer. The coronavirus pandemic resulted in a new focus on people’s living spaces, and should this new variant continue to take a hold, I suspect that we will see continued interest in antiques and auction buys. As buying at auction online became second nature to many throughout 2019 and 2020, we aim to offer a consistent service for both buyers and sellers throughout next year, regardless of how the next few months take shape in terms of potential lockdowns or social distancing measures. Already our calendar for next year is looking promising. In February we will be hosting the Art & Design sale which will include the much-anticipated Michael Stennett collection, which includes paintings and furniture from his studio along with a fine and rare collection of Martin Brothers ceramics.

The first sale of 2022 will be The Interiors Sale, taking place on Thursday 13th January, and we look forward to seeing our customers and clients in the New Year.”

To view the calendar for 2022, please click here

For further information contact the Fine Art Department on 01223 213343,