The Wall Street Journal looks into the ambitions of Stephan Ludwig, former investment banker, who has been building Dreweatts into a middle-market force in the decorative arts and estate auction business:
“Stephan Ludwig is a seriously important player, very highly thought of in the City,” says Ivan Macquisten, editor of the Antiques Trade Gazette.” He adds that, after the big U.K. three, Dreweatts is a “significant force” in the U.K. auction market and one of the largest in Europe, although the exact pecking-order world-wide is impossible to ascertain in a self-regulated and variably unlicensed global industry whose data is years out of date.
Between them, Dreweatts and Bloomsbury offered 90,000 lots last year, making them the second-largest fine-art auctioneers in Britain by the number of lots sold, Mr. Ludwig says. (Bonhams was about a third higher.) Together, their sales target this year is around £40 million. The two companies will offer each other’s services to their respective clients world-wide (about 20,000 between them). Mr. Ludwig becomes group chief executive of Bloomsbury Auctions, while maintaining the executive chairmanship of Dreweatts.
Now he is focusing on further expansion, exploring alliances with auctioneers in Austria, Switzerland and Germany, as well as North America, all of which are dominated by Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and home-grown houses like Lempertz in Germany.
In the U.K. and other markets, Mr. Ludwig’s focus isn’t on the £1 million-plus single-lots market or the multimillion-pound art works that go to Sotheby’s, Christie’s and local leaders. He is targeting the middle market for fine and decorative arts, from £5,000 to £50,000, homing in on the large number of middle-market estates whose value doesn’t quite justify the cachet required for the entire estate to be dealt with by his larger rivals.
New Kids on the Auction Block (Wall Street Journal)