A co-sign by a former Spice Girl appears to have given the sometimes sleepy Old Masters sales a jolt of energy in London this week. Victoria Beckham and her husband, the English football god David Beckham, are noted collectors of contemporary art, but a trip to the Frick Collection in New York piqued Posh Spice’s interest in older works. For this season, the fashion designer hosted an exhibition of 16 works set to be auctioned at Sotheby’s Old Masters sale at her Mayfair boutique, and dutifully Instagrammed herself with the works, racking up tons of social media buzz. The collaboration appears to have paid off, as the Wednesday night sale grossed £42.6 million, or about $56.3 million, and an attendance of the pre-sale exhibition doubled previous records when more than 7,000 vistors passed through. “Popular culture is certainly having an effect,” Alex Bell, Sotheby’s worldwide co-chairman of old master paintings, said after the sale, according to the New York Times. “It’s the V.B. effect,” he said.
The next night, Christie’s held its Old Masters sale, and earned £31.1 million, or $41.2 million. The top lot of the night was Ludovico Carracci’s Portrait of Carlo Alberto Rati Opizzoni in armour, which achieved a price of £5.1 million, or $6.7 million. But the sale was marked by a number of big pictures that failed to sell, resulting in a 74% sell through rate by lot. Still, the house appeared impressed following the auction, with Clementine Sinclair, the head of Christie’s Old Master paintings evening sale, telling The Art Newspaper that it was a “buoyant sale, with works that were fresh to the market sparking competitive bidding.” She added that much of the phone bidding came from Asia and Russia.