Several years ago in Hong Kong I was hitching a ride on one of their fantastically long subway escalators when I noticed a series of beautiful advertising light boxes.

What captivated me was the byline “Collectors Gather Here”. Simple and poetic is why it engaged me and I started thinking about that line again, and regularly, during our various lockdowns and our requirements to either restrict or eliminate gatherings altogether.

Now we seem to be gathering again but the makeup of that activity is more varied and interesting; it now seems to me to be a more nuanced mix of specific physical visits, more email, more phone calls and now a completely normalised use of FaceTime, Zoom, and everything in between.

Do I ever think we’ll see big, physical crowds again at auctions of 200-300 people? I’m not sure but I do know that the physical element to our activities has an important place, not just operationally but more importantly, socially. So as we emerge from our “remote” working environments I’m looking forward to observing how our clients choose to gather with us.

At the human level I hope Ronan Sulich, formerly of Christie’s and now with our Sydney office, enjoys lots of catch-ups and conversations with his decorative arts community and in Melbourne I would imagine that Patricia Kontos, formerly of Sotheby’s Melbourne, will enjoy reconnecting with jewellery and watch lovers and bringing her big personality and great sense of humour to every interaction with them.

And yes, it will fascinate me to see how Hamish Sharma’s 25.02 carat Diamond ring, the most expensive ring ever to be auctioned in Australia, will be sold. Will it be to an anonymous internet bidder or someone in the saleroom? Will they have touched and tried it on their finger several times, the old-fashioned way? Or will they have made their assessment via extended video-calls and model shots? I’m not sure, but more likely than not, it will involve a mix of all of these elements. Because all of these elements seem to make up the way we now gather.

But rest assured, when we soon have the absolute honour of celebrating at auction an aspect of Graham Joel’s art collection and Leonard Joel’s, Graham’s father, antique seal collection, we will indeed, and yes with all the caveats we are now familiar with, create a special physical gathering, because I knew Graham Joel well enough to know that he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

JOHN ALBRECHT
Managing Director / National Head of Collections

Image:
THOMAS BRABAZON AYLMER (1806-1856)
Castle of Ischia, in the Bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius Beyond (detail)
oil on canvas, 75cm x 120cm
$6,000-8,000

March 2021