The United Kingdom has long had an established and respected auction history, with many of today’s firms able to trace their origins back several hundred years. In many respects trading at auction in the 21st century has become one of the purest forms of commerce, subject only to the integrity and professionalism of the participants. It is in large part against this backdrop that the Association of Accredited Auctioneers (AAA) was conceived and born.
When I first visited Beijing and Shanghai in March 2012, I was overwhelmed by the extent of commercial activity and newly created wealth born out of today’s Chinese economic miracle. I was particularly intrigued by the widespread evidence of international and cosmopolitan influences on the more recent evolution of fashion and taste in China. Whether in the fashion boutiques or upmarket antique stores, both cities seemed to be increasingly looking West for aspects of their consumer interest. On returning to England after my trip, I shared my experiences with a range of English auctioneers and discovered that we were all thinking along very similar lines.
As a long-standing and experienced auctioneer I have, of course, been aware of the very significant growth in the Chinese appetite for repatriating lost treasures and exported works of art. In very much more recent times we have also detected a growing interest in sophisticated clocks, long a collecting passion of past Chinese Emperors and in European silver. Many of these purchases have been made directly at auctions across the breadth of the UK and not been confined only to the rooms of the largest international firms.
The biggest challenges faced by both UK auctioneers and Chinese buyers have been born out of the predictable cultural barriers of language and distance, which naturally spill over to questions of understanding procedures and establishing trust. This recognition has led us to establish AAA and present a uniform and balanced shop window to the Chinese market for international antiques, works of art and collectibles. In addition to our desire to improve East/West trade in antiques the Association is also now focusing on marketing our members services throughout Europe and USA.
The Association has 20 members, all representing the highest standards of transparency and integrity in our home market. It is our objective to offer guidance and assistance to prospective buyers throughout the World with the aim of removing many of the obstacles to a free trade in our artefacts. Our membership has a collective turnover exceeding US$300,000,000 per annum and there is no discipline in the art and antiques market that is not represented by AAA.
European homes are full of untold treasures, both from the Orient as well as our own rich cultural history and we recognise the need to offer advice and guidance to new collectors entering this marketplace for the first time. As with all areas of collecting, quality of craftsmanship and provenance are key to acquiring treasures of enduring value.
As Chairman of this newly established Association, I welcome you to our auctions and the many years of productive collaboration ahead of us. I am confident that our Members pages on this website will give visitors a good insight into the scale and range of the Association’s activities.
Chris Ewbank FRICS ASFAV
Chairman of the Association of Accredited Auctioneers