Auctions, according to information held by the National Auctioneers Association, date as far back as 500 BC.
Back then, women were being auctioned off as wives to the highest bidder. The practice was so rife that it was considered illegal to allow daughters to be “sold” outside of an auction. The world has come a long way from the time of bidding for wives, but in a way auctions have kept more or less the same format of operation.
Auctioneers are loud, confident, masters of persuasion who excite crowds into parting with large sums of money. It’s a profession not for the faint-hearted and remains curiously dominated by males.
The word “auctioneer”, therefore, continues to paint an image of a fast-talking alpha-male, bellowing bids to generate energy in an otherwise silent crowd. But it appears the tide might be turning…
Meet Imre Lamprecht, one of only a hand full of women art auctioneers in the country.
Imre grew up on a farm in Klerksdorp and has always had a love for art, surrounded by family in all walks of the art and design industry. She went on to study a Fine Arts and Psychology degree at Pretoria University specialising in painting in her final year. Whilst at university the auctioneering bug bit doing a six week practical stint at Bernardi Auctioneers in Pretoria as part of her qualification; she loved it so much and stayed for a year. ‘I was astounded by the vast number of South African artists that I had not heard of and started reading up on all of them. I loved the client interaction and knew this was the career that I wanted to pursue.’ Shortly after Imre started as a junior cataloguer at Stephan Welz and Co and rapidly moved up the ranks to head the Art Department of the company (which she did for 8 years).
It was here that Imre first took to the podium as junior auctioneer in 2008. ‘I remember getting my first training from Lord Mark Poltimore (who is now Deputy Head of Sotheby’s Europe) and thinking this is like the movies – elocution, pronunciation, projection and presentation classes.’ She travelled between the Johannesburg and Cape Town sales and quickly became known as a fast paced auctioneer.
“It does take a certain personality to be able to stand in front of a crowd of 100 or more people and control the bidding, especially if someone wants to be a bit of a smarty pants. You might be surprised to know that I was quite shy growing up and loathed the idea of talking in front of people. However, that dissipated with time and now I blossom when I am on stage – I absolutely love my job! Psychology has definitely helped me along the way to understand different individuals and how to deal with them but also to read the crowd better. People are generally surprised when they ask what my profession is as they do not expect me to be the actual auctioneer – I find it slightly amusing!’
‘When Christiaan Scholtz asked me to join his team at Old Johannesburg Warehouse Auctioneers in 2016 to start and head up the Art department, I found it daunting but also a great challenge. Although the same industry, I was moving away from everything that I knew. All of a sudden I was doing monthly auctions and as senior art specialist I had to quicken the pace considerably. I also shared the auction responsibility with my fellow auctioneer Filip Taylor Parkins – We each do between 7 and 9 hours of auctioning over a weekend. For this job you need a clear voice, stamina, a quick wit, a kind heart, good relations with the public, the ability to concentrate for hours on end, have a retentive memory and clear eyesight.’
The auctions are supported by all age groups and walks of life, which is cheered on as all the specialists want to encourage more young individuals to enter the auction market – as protégées for the next generation, as buyers and as sellers. The auctions are lively and people are looked after with a constant supply of fresh croissants, coffee, boerewors rolls, snacks, soft drinks and wine throughout the day. To find out more about the company, their monthly auctions or the process of buying or selling, visit the website oldjwauctioneers.com or phone 011 836 1650