The First Eight Weeks

My last memory of a normal hug was when someone from IFAW I was saying goodbye to at LA airport on Friday February 28th declined a handshake and embraced me instead. My last memory of a normal auction moment was my meeting with Thomas Keneally in Sydney on March 13th – the welcome I received from him was as warm as the smile I have come to know from the images of him that populate the public domain.

From that day, everything from an auction perspective changed.

Reviewing all my emails to the Leonard Joel team over these first eights weeks I am struck by both the content of them and the new priorities that informed them in a world consumed by this virus and its devastation.

For me and for almost every business owner, I would imagine, it began to feel like a rollercoaster of nervousness and fear. Then on Sunday the 22nd of March came wind that a shut-down was looming. No one knew how extreme that would be or what quite that would mean.

Then on the 24th of March the Prime Minister announced: “Auction Houses; gatherings together in auction rooms – that can no longer continue”. At first it sounded like our business had been turned upside down but soon I realised that what it actually meant was that if we wanted to continue to do business, we had to eliminate (and I don’t like using that word) any form of gathering from midnight 25th of March. This challenged the very public nature of viewings (open for inspections) and auctions that have been intimately fused with the business model of traditional auction rooms for centuries. So, with a 24-hour window our amazing team set about finalising our conversion to online-only. That was eight weeks ago and since then, like so many other businesses, we have walked the challenging path of business preservation and community safety. It has not been without its challenges, criticisms and self-doubt along the way but it also has been (and continues to be) an adventure that is as inspiring as it is frightening.

And with this eight weeks behind us, we remain completely positive that collectors will still collect, decorators will still decorate and people will still adorn and our June round of auctions seems to aptly capture that spirit in four extraordinary consignments that have been entrusted to us.

In our seasonal Sydney Collector’s Auction we reveal an original Chagall for public auction. The only original ever to be sold in Australia. While in our Asian Arts Auction we present the De Voogd collection that includes a rare Qianlong box with an exquisitely inlaid poem, quite possibly commissioned by Emperor Qianlong himself! Treasures in our June round of sales are not limited to the international either. Our Art department has uncovered an extremely rare set of four colonial sketch and notebooks belonging to and authored by James Walker who arrived on the shores of Sydney harbour in 1823. Such finds in 2020 are rare indeed and it has been more than interesting to have researched the set and now be presenting them for public auction. Our round of auctions would not be complete without Fine Jewels & Timepieces and in that forthcoming auction one of the finest south sea pearl strands ever to be offered at auction will present a rare buying opportunity. This golden strand of some twenty nine pears, so evenly matched and round, carries and estimate of $100,000 – $120,000.

These are just some of our highlights within our June round of sales and despite these challenging times we look forward to welcoming you to our rooms by appointment where you can enjoy our collections within peaceful environments free of gatherings and crowds.

Managing Director / National Head of Collections