AUCTIONS

In pop auctions it is pop status that fetches the money, which makes two abstracts by Stuart Sutcliffe, the `fifth Beatle', the snip of `The Cynthia Lennon Collection - part II'
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I wetted my finger and ran it round the metal-lined interior of the leather-clad tobacco jar in which John Lennon kept his marijuana and cannabis resin.

The stash pot, up for sale at South Ken on Thursday (10.30am) had spoilt the breakfasts of Christie's directors. Or rather, a report of it in the International Herald Tribune had. The newspaper, mischievously, quoted a Christie's person as saying that there were "some funny-looking things at the bottom, some kind of tobacco". Christie's dealing in drugs? The very idea!

But when I withdrew my fingertip I found it covered in fine brown snuff- like powder. I dabbed it on to my tongue. Hmm. Probably just tobacco residue. Or so I thought. Was it my imagination, or did my tongue really go numb?

This week, the vendor, Lennon's first wife, Cynthia, mentioned in a letter to Christie's that the jar had been used later as a tea caddy.

Surmounted by a pair of crossed gilt-bronze hookah pipes, the jar is estimated pounds 400-pounds 600. Mrs Lennon wrote that it hid dope from "the prying eyes of housekeepers and mother-in-law" at the couple's home in Weybridge, Surrey, where it was "in use continually". "The Cynthia Lennon Collection - part II" comprises 18 lots of Lennon memorabilia.

Snip of this sale: two paintings by the "fifth Beatle", Stuart Sutcliffe, who died in 1962, less than a year after quitting as the group's bass guitarist in order to resume painting as a career.

In pop auctions it is pop status that fetches the money. Two abstracts by Sutcliffe, exhibited in 1969 at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, and the city's Neptune Gallery, are modestly estimated pounds 400-pounds 600 and pounds 800- pounds 1,000 in the sale. At Sotheby's on 13 September, Lennon's schoolboy sketchbook containing 20 crude caricatures is expected to fetch pounds 80,000-pounds 120,000.

Sutcliffe, a gifted draughtsman, pioneered the Sixties crossover between pop and art. Remaining in Hamburg when the Beatles returned to England, he studied under Paolozzi at the city's State School of Art.

The first Stuart Sutcliffe Fellowship award will be made at Liverpool John Moores University School of Design and Visual Arts, for work combining visual art with sound and music, on 12 September. An exhibition of his work is at the university until then and on 5 October Sotheby's is holding a charity auction in aid of the Stuart Sutcliffe Fellowship Trust, founded by his sister, Pauline.

A private collection of 40 novelty pencil sharpeners dating from the 1890s is in Bonhams' sale of vintage pens, Thursday (1pm) and Friday (10am). The sharpeners are a test of the British market. The Germans collect them avidly. The 1890s specimen is a miniature hand-cranked lathe: est pounds 100.

You have to admire the wit of Bonhams' sale of 20th-century furniture and design, next Saturday (1pm). They are expecting pounds 1,200-pounds 1,800 for a 1930s chair knocked up from wooden crates and peeling from exposure in a garden in Holland. Its maker is Gerrit Rietveld, designer of the First World War "Red, Blue and Yellow Chair", now hailed as the first Modern chair.

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