Best of British auction

Exquisite British design from the 19th and 20th centuries, the private collection of an antiques dealer to the stars, goes on sale at a selling exhibition and auction at Sotheby's on 14 March.
Est. £50,000-£80,000: rare hanging bookcase by Edwin William Godwin for William Watt (circa 1875)
Est. £50,000-£80,000: rare hanging bookcase by Edwin William Godwin for William Watt (circa 1875)
Paul Reeves is a dealer known for the breadth of his expertise. For more than 30 years, he has sourced British design, from the 1840s to the 1960s, for clients ranging from pop stars to financiers.

Browsers at his quiet Kensington gallery might be surprised to hear that, before Reeves began supplying sublime furniture by 19th and 20th century British architects and designers to the British Museum and the V&A, he used to dress rock stars.

Reeves’s career began in fashion. In the Sixties he was a designer and retailer, working under the label Sam Pig in Love, and later Alkasura, with a store on the Fulham Road. His flamboyant clothes were bought by Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Who and David Bowie – in fact, his garments are much sought-after collectors’ items nowadays, and have found their way into exhibitions at the V&A and Museum of London.

It was a handful of his music-industry clients that encouraged Reeves on the path to antiques dealing and decorating. In 1973, Peter Grant, the manager of Led Zeppelin, asked Reeves to help him refurbish his home, a West End mews house. During the following 18 months, Reeves sourced everything from curtain material to cutlery, discovering a talent for interior design and love of beautifully made British furniture and textiles along the way.

Reeves opened a store in Kensington Church Street - his stock includes furniture and decoratives by some of the British greats, Christopher Dresser, William Morris, CFA Voysey and Charles Rennie Mackintosh - and acquired an inventory of showbiz clients: Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Barbra Streisand, George and Olivia Harrison, Gary Kemp, Brad Pitt and Roger and Heather Daltrey. One of his most passionate collectors of 19th century textiles was Led Zeppelin’s guitarist, Jimmy Page.

Est. £1 million: The Quest of the Holy Grail: The Achievement - magnificent Morris & Co tapestry (1894), from the collection of Jimmy Page
Est. £1 million: The Quest of the Holy Grail: The Achievement - magnificent Morris & Co tapestry (1894), from the collection of Jimmy Page

Reeves's catalogue of collectors may be impressive but what’s on offer in the exhibition and auction?

Est. £100,000-£150,000: Hammersmith carpet, Morris & Co (late 1880s)
Est. £100,000-£150,000: Hammersmith carpet, Morris & Co (late 1880s)
In the selling exhibition, prices are a little less precipitous than in the sale. More than 100 lots will include pieces from £750, such as an occasional table designed by Robin Day for Hille. But the real highlights can be found in the auction.

The undoubted star of the sale will be a Morris & Co tapestry, formerly owned by Page, designed in 1894 by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones. Holy Grail: The Achievement, is a Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece, 24ft long, originally woven for Stanmore Hall in Middlesex, and expected to reach the £1 million mark.

A collection of furniture previously owned by Gary Kemp (of Spandau Ballet and the film The Krays) features pieces by architect and designer Edwin William Godwin, including a rare hanging bookcase, valued at £60,000 to £80,000.

The Best of British, Design from the 19th and 20th centuries, 14-20 March, Sotheby’s, 34-35 New Bond Street, W1 (020 7293 5000, www.sothebys.com).

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