Going, Going, Gone!
Catherine Southon, who appears in many well- known antique shows, talks to Angela Cave about her passion for her career and her delight when she discovers a gem!
We have all become familiar with various antiques programmes on TV and they seem to be hardy perennials, returning each year and remaining extremely popular. Catherine Southon has become familiar to us from Flog it, Bargain Hunt and Antiques Road Trip, but spent 8 years working at Sotheby’s becoming Head of Scientific Instruments and Maritime Works, so we had a chat to her about what makes her heart race and why we should all get the ‘Auction bug’.
Angela Cave: What makes you jump out of bed in the morning?
Catherine Soton: Well apart from my children it is the challenge and fun of seeing what people will bring in to be sold and what will be in that leather box when I open it, it is still very exciting!
AC: Is there still a residual feeling that, for auction virgins, it is a black art and if you scratch your ear you might end up with a Van Gogh?
CS: Oh I do hope not, you can see from the tv that the auctioneers are really good at seeing who is bidding and who isn’t – and in fact most bidders do so quite positively, some of us get quite carried away and almost jump up and down, mentioning no names! I also think that we should bust the myth that auction houses only sell priceless antiques. Of course, some of them do, but the majority sell a wide variety of useful things. After all things that have been made in the past, even just 50 years ago, have been made from good solid materials and with real craftsmanship and I can never understand why anyone would want a chipboard piece of furniture that will blow over in a strong wind when they can go to an auction house and for a fraction of the cost buy really beautiful wood! It is also the case that auctions are environmentally friendly too – the carbon footprint is long gone and so we are great recyclers too.
AC: When you are travelling round filming for the BBC aren’t you tempted to buy for yourself?
CS: Oh yes, so many times – I expect you can hear it in my voice when I describe a really choice find – but rules are rules so I have to resist!
AC: In a very competitive market what made you set up your own auction house?
CS: Well, I love the cut and chase of auctions – they are fast and fun so that appeals greatly, but when I was working as a freelance valuer I would go to valuation days at various places, Rotary Clubs and racecourses, and then I’d have to suggest auctioneers where people could take their pieces to sell them. So the obvious follow on from that was to run my own auctions, as people do seem to trust me, probably because they see me on the telly so I went in that direction – and I am really glad that I did, so far…!
AC: And finally, what are your favourite recent finds?
CS: Well, the sale of a small oil painting by Frederico Del Campo (pictured) was a highlight, especially for a small auction house – the estimate was £4,000 to £6,000 and it sold for £27,140, so more like that please!