Arts & Giving | Diary of a Somebody

Francis Outred

The auctioneer on how the sale of the season takes wing

Francis Outred

February 17 2011
Francis Outred

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

The evening auction is today. I don’t get nervous, but I do get a strange anticipation which builds during the day. It’s looking as though it should go well, but it’s impossible to tell with an auction. You never know what decision the bidders will make at that moment that counts.

In the afternoon we have one last interest meeting – there’s a good level of interest but it’s at this point that I tend to get a little restless. I meet with Jussi Pylkkänen, the auctioneer for the sale, and we discuss who might be bidding for which lot – as an auctioneer, it’s always helpful to have a steer.

The view ends at 3.30pm and the room is set up for the sale. There aren’t enough minutes in the hour or hours in the day – the phone won’t stop ringing and tensions are starting to rise! We have to organise who is bidding for which client on which lot and who speaks what language; the room is going to be completely full and I find out that more than 160 clients have registered to bid by phone – a huge number.

The auction starts at exactly 7pm. I’m telephone bidding for clients on about 15 lots – I buy about half. The sale goes really well, makes over £61m – the biggest contemporary sale in London since summer 2008. The Warhol is the star – bidders in the saleroom add to the drama, fighting it out from about £2.8m until the hammer drops and it sells for £10.8m. Near the end, a work by a young Brazilian artist starts at £180,000 and sells for more than £1m! Quick dinner and a drink with the team after the sale, but only one (or two…); the day sale is tomorrow at 10am.

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