Auctions: Sit down. This will come as a shock

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The Independent Online
FURNITURE auctioneers do not know how to value things these days. Buyers are eccentric, wanting chairs to sit on and tables to eat off, unlike true collectors who keep on buying Ming vases even though they own 100. Some vendors are selling their household furniture and starting again, others are sacrificing choice pieces to appease the bank manager. So are dealers. There is plenty of furniture to choose from. Sotheby's major sale Friday (10.30am) is one of two in November and there are more in January, March and April. Sotheby's last major sale, in September, sold a modest 66 per cent. Christie's sale of fine English furniture is on Thursday (11am).

LOOKING FOR A HILLIER VIEW?

The modern Brit pictures market seems to be holding its own (Sotheby's last major sale in May sold 90 per cent). Sales this week are full of the rare and unusual. Sotheby's considers its Eric Gill sculpture, Mother and Child (1913), on sale Wednesday (11am), est pounds 25,000- pounds 30,000, to be his best at auction for a decade. There are 11 British neo- Romantics of the Thirties and Forties (a Hillier view is est pounds 6,000- pounds 8,000).

Stanley Spencer prices are holding up exorbitantly well, judging by the last two auction purchases in May: this auction's domestic scene, Going to Bed, is est pounds 180,000- pounds 260,000 and The Temptation of St Anthony (nudes in a graveyard) pounds 300,000- pounds 500,000. Christie's has some rare Pipers and some notable Lowrys. An Orpen, Girl in a Blue Hat, is pounds 80,000- pounds 120,000. Christie's South Kensington has modern and continental pictures under pounds 100 Thursday (10.30am). Bonhams' moderns and contemporaries: Thursday (11am).

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