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Scottish-Art Sales: Bright Spots Despite Drop In Volume

Sales of Scottish paintings in the U.K. have taken a beating lately. First Christie’s abandoned its Scottish sale.

LONDON—Sales of Scottish paintings in the U.K. have taken a beating lately. First Christie’s abandoned its Scottish sale. Then, last year Sotheby’s dropped its regular summer auction at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, opting to hold its Scottish sale in London instead. The house’s rationale for the cost-cutting move was that the buyers of major lots would still do so in London, but the result was thinner sales last April and September that brought in just £2.9 million ($4.4 million) and £3.3million ($5.4million) respectively. Those totals were down from £4.9million ($9 million) at the last Gleneagles sale, in 2008.

Sotheby’s latest auction of Scottish pictures, on April 22 in London, realized £2.8million ($4.4million) in total, well below the overall estimate of £3.2million/4.8million. The best Scottish colorist paintings were in high demand. Tulips, ca. 1912, an oil by Samuel Peploe, was sold to an anonymous buyer for a record £623,650 ($964,225) on an estimate of £300,000/500,000. Also among the record lots were Francis Cadell’s Impressionist-style painting Florian’s Café, Venice, 1910, which fetched £553,250 ($855,380) against an estimate of £150,000/250,000, and John MacLauchlan Milne’s painting Cottages in Provence, 1924, which was sold for £75,650 ($116,960) against an estimate of £40,000/60,000.

However, these strong individual prices were not enough to help the entire sale to meet expectations, and half the 131 lots went unsold. Among these were seven works by popular contemporary painter Jack Vettriano, which were given estimates in the range of £15,000/70,000 ($23,200/108,230).

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