I’ve been to three big auctions this year. All the same, yet different.
One I went to was an auction people went to for a Good Buy. The quality of the goods for sale was high, but not prohibitively so. It was a rainy winter day, everyone looked more of less the same, wrapped in their winter coats. I came early so I managed to find a seat. The outside door was right behind me, it was a bit draughty at times. There were a few male voices who did a lot of bidding. They were probably making acquisitions for their antique shops. Then there was that couple who came for a specific painting. The lady who came for the necklace. The men who bid against each other over one lot of three statuettes. Paintings by well known and recognized artists didn’t even reach their estimates. An unsigned watercolour someone said was a Kandinsky got a bit more action. Antique furniture is just old furniture and doesn’t fetch high prices. What does fetch high prices is design from the 50’s and 60’s. I wonder, when the 50’s and 60’s are so not interesting any more, what comes next? 70’s chipboard?? IKEA flatpacks??
Another auction was where people go for a Steal. Some very high quality things, some quite ordinary things you’d rather expect to see in a thrift shop, odd things like a vacuum cleaner. Something for everyone. Here you can see young people furnishing their first rented apartment, a lady who collects cat figurines, a man and woman who bid against each other over a Danish dinner set and characters you thought didn’t exist outside Lovejoy. Clap them on their shoulder and a cloud of dust and a dozen moths puff into your face along with the strong smell of a pack of cigarettes having been smoked by noon that day. This auction was packed with people and it took me a long time to get a place to sit.
Then there’s the Serious Auction where you don’t have to fight your way in to find a chair to sit on. Good thing I didn’t bring a folding chair with me, would have felt foolish. In terms of observing people this was the most boring. Except for the fact that some people seemed intentionally underdressed, as if to hide the fact that they have some money. They were men in their more mature years, mostly. They came, bulging, in t-shirts and shorts or cropped pants with either sandals or the shoes they’d wear with their pinstripe suit. Much of the bidding was done on phones or on the internet. When it’s this Serious you don’t want to show your face, do you.
Interestingly enough, if a similar object was on sale in more than one of these auctions, the prices they fetched were about the same. And on some occasion a fancier environment fetched higher prices.
I didn’t buy anything. Don’t lift an eyebrow, I said to myself. I went to these auctions to experience the atmospere, to see things being sold. There wasn’t a single object I wanted to buy. What I did learn is that whatever you need and if you have time, start your shopping in thrift shops, recycling centres, antique shops, flee markets, auctions. You can get better quality things for a fraction of what you have to pay in retail. You may need to buy a rocking chair with the chest of drawers when you only need that chest of drawer, but that’s a different matter. What I’ve also been wondering is the need to design yet more ecologic and sustainable coffee cups and saucers when the most ecologic product is the one that already exists. I suppose we need all sorts of people: ones that want to simplify their life little by little taking their extra coffee cups to be auctioned and ones that want the extra coffee cups for a Saturday morning breakfast.
I'm Piisa and I will be sharing with you my thoughts on this and that, maybe even on whatever.