Collectors corner: Ornaments bloom in garden auction

Check what's lurking behind the rhododendrons, it may just be a work of art.

Forget the exotic plants imported to wow the judges at Chelsea Flower Show. The most valuable items in your garden could be statuary. This is a specialist collectors' market that has gone from strength to strength, but with a very limited supply of material, it's also an area that still has the potential to see some significant price rises.

Sotheby's held its first garden statuary sale in Billingshurst, West Sussex, in 1986. It made a record amount for a provincial sale, and the auction house now holds two sales a year.

"It's a comparatively cheap market," says Rupert van der Werff, the head of garden statuary. "In our last sale, we had two lots making six figures and, for us, that is unusual.

"I would imagine values will increase as people become aware of quite how good many pieces are and that they should be viewed in the same context as other period pieces."

Around 90 per cent of Sotheby's lots are sold privately and the auction house ships around the world. "The market is very strong for the best items," says Van der Werff. "There are some areas that have really come up in price during the past few years; most notably, 18th-century leadwork, both figurative and architectural, which has probably quadrupled in the past two or three years. It was undervalued before but people are realising the rarity value and the fantastic quality of it."

But there are dangers with rising prices. In this market, frenzied buying of cast-iron Coalbrookdale seats in the late 1990s lead to record prices of well over £30,000 - since then, their value has plunged.

Even so, some pieces have been much more steady. "In general, there is now a much greater awareness of what's good and what's average," says Van der Werff.

The top prices are paid for figurative sculptures, in marble and decent 18th-century lead figures. Codestone or Blashfield sculptures and urns are reasonably priced and always sell well, while there has also been a rise in interest for the Compton Potters Art Guild.

One area where there is great potential for price rises is in top-quality modern work. "For the past couple of years, we've included sections of contemporary sculpture in the auctions," says Van der Werff. "We've had a good response to it. It's an area that is going to grow enormously."

Spotting sculptors whose reputations will achieve longevity is tricky, though there are several well-established artists, such as Lucy Kinsella, who are already selling well.

There is an enormous variety of garden art, from bridges to simple urns, fountains and bird baths, sundials and fossils, which have become increasingly popular. It's a relatively small market because only wealthy individuals have been able to afford quality decorative items for the garden. In many cases, works are unique, having been created especially for a specific house or client.

The limited supply will ensure that the best of this art continues to rise in value. For now, it's mostly "old money" buying, but if fashions shift and gardens attract the attention of the "new rich", expect to see some meteoric price rises, as we have in other markets.

Sotheby's (next sale 26 September, Billingshurst, West Sussex): 01403 833560, www.sothebys.com

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    SThree: HR Benefits Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

    Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

    £30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003