100 years ago, a young auctioneer by the name of Leonard Joel borrowed 8,000 pounds and conceived an auction house that would celebrate collecting and the magic of discovery that comes with it.
At its simplest an auction house is not a particularly remarkable enterprise but add the human element and the sheer breadth of artistry, subject matter, materials and history that imbues every object and you have “alchemy”; a fascinating economy of beautiful things and interesting people and one that we find as endlessly compelling as the collections that are entrusted to us.
An auction house would be without purpose if it wasn’t for these things; the objects, the jewels, the art, the furniture, the design, the luxury and the decoration that perpetually swirl around the auctioneer; unwanted by someone but wanted by someone else and this flow creates a veritable Wunderkammer. And when people and things meet and collecting “happens”, we realise these things (the inanimate) have soul; they speak to us, remind us and connect us with moments in time. So, as auctioneers, we are really celebrating your memories and the cycle of collecting with you.
In this sense, it is not just the privilege of an almost museum-quality education that an auction house delivers; it is also often the immersion in the deeply personal, with the families and owners we meet. In the last decade alone our Private Collections department had the honour of celebrating James Fairfax’s antiques collection, the complete thrill of being chosen by Ron Barassi to handle his life-long sporting archive and only so very recently the almost forensic, sacred engagement to meticulously catalogue and recreate Mirka Mora’s entire studio. This is the career motif of the auctioneer; discovery, history-sharing and story-telling.
This human element is also what creates evolution within an auction house; our tastes and our values change and our living environments change too. This is where we are lucky as ultimately, we reflect the secondary market of your lives and wait for your cue as to what will be bought and sold. Whether you’re a buyer, a seller or a spectator at Leonard Joel, you represent an evolving collecting and decorating spirit that we are committed to as we thoughtfully challenge with you, traditional notions about what should and should not be collected.
And on that note and as we conclude our first century of business, I want to thank all our clients, from Australia and afar, that bring the inanimate to life for us every day and give our work real meaning.
Managing Director & Head of Private Collections