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Popularity of Scots art endures despite struggling economy

THE economy may still be ­struggling but classic Scottish art is still seen as a worthy investment, auction houses found in 2013.

BOOMING: Art, such as that auctioned at McTear's, remains popular.
BOOMING: Art, such as that auctioned at McTear's, remains popular.

Sales of Scottish art, especially the Colourists and the Glasgow Boys, jewellery and antique furniture at Scotland's auction houses were strong during the last 12 months.

In particular, buyers of art were looking for painters who have proved to have enduring value over the years, auctioneers reported.

Miranda Grant, the managing director of Bonhams Scotland, based in Edinburgh, said that sales of Scottish Colourists had led to one of her business's strongest years.

However, she also revealed that Bonhams' annual Scottish sale, which for years has been held in August, would be moving out of the summer and into April to attract more buyers.

Potential buyers in August, she said, were often on holiday and the trade from clients in the city for the Edinburgh Festival had changed, Ms Grant said.

Another key auctioneers, Lyon & Turnbull, said 2013 had seen a slow start but then experienced a turnover in excess of £10 million.

Paul Roberts, vice chairman, said: "The Asian market and Scottish paintings have done particularly well.

"Just last week we sold a 200-year-old Chinese Imperial Robe for £15,000.

"One of our specialists found it hanging in a wardrobe in a house in the Highlands of Scotland."

Whereas Bonhams had several sales of house contents in 2012, Lyon & Turnbull had successful sales of collections this year.

Ms Roberts added: "We have had collections from around the globe for sale in Edinburgh, including The Forbes Collection from London, Blair Castle in Ayrshire and the Taffner Collection from New York.

"This year has seen similar interesting collections for sale in Edinburgh."

Both auction houses said that collectors are still investing ­heavily in classic Scottish art.

In April, Bonhams sold five paintings by Scottish colourist Samuel Peploe for nearly £1m.

Still Life, Roses and Chinese Blue, made £349, 250, Blue & White Vase, Roses, Melon and Orange sold for £277,250 and a Still Life was bought for £181,250.

Ms Grant said: "If people are wanting to invest in art, they want it to be something they can instantly recognise, something that is classic.

"If people are going to spend a considerable amount of money on a work of art, they want to be absolutely sure what they are investing in and Peploe, of course, is one of those names.

"From our point of view, 2013 has been one of the best years we have had."

In 2013, Lyon & Turnbull sold one of the largest collections of paintings by the Glasgow Boys.

The sale held in Edinburgh on May 30 featured more than 20 oil paintings, watercolours and pastels by such artists as Lavery, Park, Walton, Paterson, Kennedy, Henry and Hornel.

Nick Curnow, the managing director and paintings specialist at Lyon & Turnbull, said: "The rise in interest in paintings by The Glasgow Boys has been incredible.

"The exhibitions in London at the Royal Academy and The Kelvingrove in Glasgow, the most popular art exhibition ever held in the museum, have certainly helped to make them more popular. We are devoting an entire sale to Fine Scottish Paintings and Sculpture in Edinburgh in May 2014."

McTears of Glasgow, one of the most popular auction houses in Scotland, also reported a strong year.

Brian Clements, managing director, said people were still very interested in buying Scottish art.

However, his business also noticed an increased interest in contemporary art.

He said: "Sales growth in the pictures category has been very strong and in 2013 McTears has sold more than five thousand individual paintings generating sales which in financial terms are more than 50 times greater than achieved for Pictures in 2008.

"McTears sells more paintings each year than any gallery, any art fair and substantially more than any other auction house outside London.

"Growth in the calendar year 2012-2013 is up by more than 20% and the most buoyant of the three categories is contemporary, closely followed by Scottish Pictures."

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