The year that was!

Jesper Bruun Rasmussen takes us back over some of the events and initiatives that shaped 2012 at the auction house.

Axel Salto: A strong and rare large fruit shaped stoneware vase. Hammer price: DKK 500,000.

A single bottle of Château Latour double magnum 1945. Hammer price: DKK 175,000.

A portrait of me by the Danish artist Mikael Melbye.

Vilhelm Hammershøi: "Stue". 1909. Purchased by the National Gallery of Denmark in September.

Bruun Rasmussen's delegation at the fair "Business of Design Week" in Hong Kong in the beginning of December.

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A good auction year

As 2012 draws to a close, I would just like to take a moment to look back at the past year. Well in excess of 100,000 catalogue numbers of art, antiques, modern design, jewellery, watches and collectibles were up for sale at our daily online auctions and the year’s international auctions at Bredgade, indicating that the art market is picking up again after a few difficult years. Our main task, going forward, is to match the price level with the buyers’ expectations.

One of the new trends we have seen in 2012 is that modern Danish design has really taken root on the international art market. Design enthusiasts the world over have had their eyes opened to the delights of the Danish furniture classics, which receive massive exposure in all manner of design magazines, and this has left its mark on our auctions. A chair by Hans J. Wegner, for example, sold for a hammer price of DKK 350,000, and at the recently concluded international auction, we sold a stoneware vase by Axel Salto for no less than half a million.

Naturally, the year also produced some remarkable hammer prices in other categories. The wine department recently achieved a hammer price of DKK 175,000 for a single bottle of Chateau Latour double magnum 1945, while a collection of 60 rare first editions by Hans Christian Andersen went for DKK 620,000.

Finn Juhl 100 years

In September, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Finn Juhl with a large-scale auction of 100 of his design classics, followed by furniture icons by other Danish architects. At the preview, we were visited by the world’s biggest Finn Juhl collector, the Japanese professor Noritsugu Oda, who, in a moving speech, talked about his passion for the furniture of the world famous Danish architect. With a total hammer price of DKK 10 million, this was the biggest design auction in the history of Bruun Rasmussen.

More birthdays …

2012 was also the year that I celebrated my 70th birthday. The event was marked at our headquarters in Sundkrogsgade in Copenhagen’s Nordhavn, where customers and friends showed up to offer their best wishes. One of the guests was artist Mikael Melbye, who was there literally to unveil the portrait he had painted of me in the preceding months. The portrait, which was presented by the artist, was a gift from my staff on the occasion of my 50th anniversary at Bruun Rasmussen last year, and I am delighted with the result. The portrait is currently hanging in the reception entrance at Bredgade.

When the museums buy art

Much of the art we sell ends up in Danish and international museums. It is always a pleasure to walk around exhibitions and come across works that have gone under the hammer at Bruun Rasmussen over the years. 

This year, our paintings have found their way to ARoS, the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Castle, Nivaagaards Malerisamling, Skagens Museum and, not least, the National Gallery of Denmark, which purchased an enigmatic painting by Vilhelm Hammershøi for DKK 1 million in the autumn – the most expensive museum acquisition of 2012.

The Chinese market

For an auction house, it is essential to follow the art market closely and continuously seek out new markets. And China is unquestionably one of the fastest growing economies in recent years. We are seeing growing interest from this part of the world and have therefore intensified our sales efforts in the Far East. We have made repeated visits to Hong Kong during the year with the aim of maintaining and expanding our client base, for example in connection with some of Asia’s largest antique and design fairs. We are proud to be part of a 300-year-old trading tradition between Denmark and China, and we look forward to continuing our efforts in the Far East.

In the eye of a media storm

We ended the year with an important decision: to no longer sell unprocessed rhinoceros horn at auction. According to Danish legislation, it is perfectly legal to sell these horns if CITES certificates have been issued by the Danish Nature Agency, which was the case with the horns up for auction. However, in recent months we have received a number of enquiries from the public and found ourselves in the media spotlight. We therefore decided, right before the weapon auction, to refrain from offering the horns for sale and tighten up our ethical code of practice. It is a decision likely to please many, and frustrate just a few.

With these words, I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – and remember to keep an eye on the online auctions, which will be continuing all through Christmas. I look forward to seeing you in 2013, when the first of the international auctions kicks off at Bredgade in February, with the preview from 21– 25 February.


Jesper Bruun Rasmussen