Former auctioneer cashes in on millionaires drawn to Scotland

THE former boss of Scottish auctioneers Bonhams is aiming to tap into the growing number of international millionaires choosing to settle in Scotland with a new business aimed at providing bespoke interior management.

Mark Richards, who ran the Edinburgh auction house for four years, says the fine art market in Scotland is changing and the traditional roles of the auctioneer and the dealer are not as relevant to high net worth individuals who want a more personalised service.

Richards, who has set up MJR Fine Art Management in the Borders and is already working with a number of clients, says the business combines the job of auctioneer, dealer and interior designer.

He said: "The art market in Scotland has changed. The traditional roles of the auctioneer and the dealer do not really apply to what a growing sector of the market want, which is someone who can offer them professional expertise rather than a picture dealer or antique auctioneer who has a loyalty to the vendor or his stock."

Richards, who travels to sales in New York and around the world sourcing furniture, fine art and collectibles for his clients, added: "There are a lot of foreign buyers buying what Scotland uniquely has to offer, which is the Highland sporting estate, and by the nature of them being foreign buyers they don't spend a lot of their time over here, therefore they don't have the time to spend on interior projects. Traditionally one would hire an interior designer and source the furniture and art elsewhere. We offer a complete approach."

The news comes just weeks after one of Scotland's most secluded great houses, Yester House in East Lothian, was put on the market with a price tag of £15m. Savills have said that there is "no doom and gloom at the top of the market" as recent figures show that 283 houses were sold for more than £1m north of the Border last year, up from 163 in 2006.

In recent years Scotland has become a popular hunting ground for wealthy Russian property investors, as they can buy trophy estates at what to them are bargain-basement prices compared with the south-east of England.

Meanwhile, fine art funds are reporting a boom in interest since the start of the liquidity crisis as investors look to diversify their portfolios and place their money in "real, tangible assets". Interest has become so strong that experts are predicting annual turnover in the global art market will more than triple over the next four years, from £15bn to £50bn.

Last month Christie's announced a 10% leap in first-half sales compared with last year. Its impressionist and modern art sale in London in February produced the highest ever sales total for a European auction, with pieces by Monet and Francis Bacon contributing to an overall haul of £144m.

Sotheby's expects its forthcoming Damien Hirst sale next month to raise in excess of £65m.
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