Investigation after concerns about bidding on Herts County Council art auction

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An auction of artwork being sold off by Herts County Council is under investigation, following concerns were raised about the “behaviour” of one online bidder.

82 of the council’s drawings, paintings, and prints went under the hammer at Cambridge-based auction house Cheffins last month (April 25).

But following concerns a ‘hold’ has been put on the sale of all the items in the auction that were bid on by this individual, including a number of items owned by the county council.

And pending the outcome of the investigation, a number of the items could go under the hammer for a second time.

Martin Millard, director at Cheffins, said: “The Auction Technology Group is conducting a full investigation into suspicious bidding behaviour on the part of one online bidder.

“Investigations are on-going and we will not be publishing any results from the sale until we have further clarity on the situation.”

The first items from the council’s collection were auctioned off in March for a total of £444,000 – with individual items selling for up to £37,000.

In advance of the latest auction, estimates for the 82 selected works – ranging from £30 to £200 – were said to be more “affordable” than those in the first sale.

Nevertheless a number of the works – not included in the ongoing investigation – went for sums that exceeded their estimates. They included ‘Porth Leven’ by Bertha Florence James for £600 and ‘Harbour Wall’ by Charles Bartlett sold for £400.

Watercolour ‘Autumn Bunch’ by John Humphrey Spender went for £480. And John Cole’s oil on canvas ‘Blue South’ raised £650.