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Raf Valls at Sotheby’s

David Dallas, Old Master Specialist

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You may have read that Rafael Valls, the well-respected St James’s stalwart, is to offer 100 paintings form his eclectic stock at Sotheby’s in London, online, between the 1st – 8th of April. The viewing is terrestrial, but the auction is not.

This is not the first time a sole trader’s stock has come up for auction and single owner sales date back centuries. Sotheby’s has an enviable record in this regard. In October 1991 they had their first sale of the works of a living artist, when David Oxtoby consigned 100 works on paper of musicians of the 1950s to be sold in aid of Nordoff Robbins Music therapy. Next up, in September 2008, was the Damien Hirst sale, which grossed over $200m. Subsequently, most of the top London Antique Furniture dealers consigned their stock to auction, notably Hotspur, Mallet, Phillips and Harris and Pelham Galleries, but this was because their market had almost evaporated.

There are two things that set this sale apart from the above and from the Moretti Mannerlist sale of 2015 and the Otto Naumann retirement sale of 2018. The first is that this is just a small, perhaps toe-in-the-water, tranche of what Rafael Valls holds and the second is that it is online. This must appeal to a younger audience unfamiliar with Old Masters. Furthermore, as we find ourselves in a climate where gatherings are banned, viewing and auctioning a sale in cyber-space helps in maintaining motion within the art world.

Nordoff Robbins Music therapy: