Thursday, 10 February 2011

For sale: One disused Tube station, slightly soiled

Got a couple of hundred grand spare? Good at cleaning off graffiti? Want to own a special piece of London Undergound history?

Then get yourself over to Andrews & Robertson auctioneers, who are selling off the old Shoreditch station later this month.

Shoreditch saw its last train in 2006 when work began on extending the old East London Line up to Dalston. The revamped railway now rises up to a new station at Shoreditch High Street, leaving its 135-year-old predecessor isolated and surplus to requirements in its little side street off Brick Lane.

The old station has seen more spray cans than commuters over the past five years, and don’t expect to be able to wander down to the platforms looking out for ghost trains to New Cross – much of the old line has been filled in and grassed over, and the stairs removed.

But what you’ll get for your money is a cosy little building which has played a big role in London railway history, which once saw steam trains from Liverpool Street to the south coast as well as Tube trains.

You could even compare notes worth the owners of the other Old Shoreditch Station – a bar beneath another long-gone rail line.

Whether it becomes a bar, a curry house, an office or the ultimate Tube geek’s crash pad – or even gets redeveloped entirely – whoever buys it will have to find at least £180,000. A bargain, perhaps, but after being abandoned for nearly five years, restoring it to its former glory will cost a bit, too.

The sale takes place at the Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden on 16 February.

By Darryl Chamberlain in The Scoop

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Historic Gay Auction in London

One of the UK’s leading auction houses is set to sell off a special piece of gay history to the highest bidder.
A complete set of the first 150 editions of Gay News which belonged to its editor, Denis Lemon, is coming up for auction at Bonhams in London on 22 March.
Gay News first appeared in June 1972. Founded by ex-members of the Gay Liberation Front and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, it provided a forum for debate as well as campaigning journalism, information on cultural issues and personal contact ads which were, at the time, unlawful.
The paper courted controversy. In 1974 it successfully fought off a charge of obscenity for publishing a photograph of two men kissing on the cover (issue 35).
A more serious prosecution followed in 1976. The morality campaigner, Mary Whitehouse, successfully brought a private action for blasphemy – the first of its kind in 50 years – against Denis Lemon for publishing James Kirkup’s poem ‘The Love that Dares to Speak its Name’, which attributed homo-erotic thoughts to Jesus on the Cross (issue 96).
Lemon was fined and given a suspended nine month prison sentence. The stress affected his health and he stepped down as editor in 1982.
Gay News pitched itself consciously as a campaigning paper with roots in the counter-culture of the 1960s and ‘70s. By the early 1980s, however, demand was growing for gay publications with less overt political content and more life-style appeal. Gay News was purchased by Millivres in 1984 and subsequently incorporated into Gay Times.
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world’s oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Queen Mother's prototype wedding dress sold in Bristol

A prototype of the dress worn by the Queen Mother at her wedding in 1923 has been sold for £3,500 at auction in Bristol.
The garment was made by the Queen Mother's dressmaker, Madame Handley Seymour.
It had been estimated to fetch between £500 and £700 in the sale of vintage fashion and textiles at fine art auctioneers Dreweatts.
The example was one of three suggested, and was used for the final design.
Malcolm Claridge, valuer at Dreweatts' Apsley Road site, said he was amazed at how "very slight" the dress was when he first saw it.
"It did not really strike me as a Royal wedding dress," Mr Claridge added.
"Although the workmanship is beautiful, it's very much a 1920s flapper style and at the time considered to be very unflattering dress.
"However I think it works really well. One of the girls here recently modelled it and it looked very current."
The dress selling for about five times its original estimation did not surprise Mr Claridge.
"It was the right place at the right time," he said.
"With the interest with The King's Speech and Kate and William's wedding, it had to be the right time for it and it has created quite a media frenzy."
The Queen Mother, or Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon as she was before she wed, became engaged to Prince Albert, Duke of York in January 1923.
In a break with tradition, it was decided their wedding would be a public affair at Westminster Abbey instead of at a royal chapel.
It is believed this decision was taken to lift the spirits of the nation following the ravages of the Great War (1914 - 1918).
The wedding took place on 26 April and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was attended by eight bridesmaids.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Special oil greases China's alternative mechanism

February 1, 2011 (Sydney Morning Herald)
The art of guanxi functions to break down the legal and other barriers to corrupt transactions.
THE art of building ''guanxi'' and the rituals of giving and soliciting bribes are not always the same thing in China, but they often are.
One reason Rio Tinto's Stern Hu is in jail is because he was no good at it. Only an amateur would receive a bag of cash and store it in his household safe.
The wheels of Chinese business and officialdom are usually greased by more experienced players. They know how to embed their favours within intricate, personalised guanxi performances which break down the moral and cognitive barriers to bribery, and also minimise the risks of being caught. They channel transactions through multiple layers and stretch them out over years and even decades.
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Hu Gang, who ran an auction house in Changsha in central China, is such a professional. And he has written two unmatched exposes - or instruction manuals - on how to do it. But even professionals can run into trouble. Hu prefers not to talk explicitly about how exactly he bribed a judge who later gave him up in a confession in an unrelated investigation.
Hu has never talked to a foreign journalist before. But he does say his first book Qingci (or Celadon, written under the pseudonym Fushi), a story about an auctioneer who bribes a judge, is uncannily similar to the events that led to him spending a year in jail.
Hu's auctioneer-protagonist makes the acquaintance of Judge Hou after learning of his drinking habit. He personally lugged a case of health-preserving liquor (containing a exotic aphrodisiac) up six flights of stairs to Judge Hou's apartment. After demonstrating his personal exertion, auctioneer Zhang explained the liquor as a gift from another friend which he did not want because he did not drink, and which had a value that was great but also deniable because it had not yet been put on the market.
Zhang cemented the relationship when he noticed Judge Hou's concern about his son's calligraphy, and quietly arranged a famous calligrapher to be his tutor. He discreetly auctioned the son's calligraphy at a friend's auction house and instructed his friend to bid for it. Zhang handed a cash envelope to Judge Hou and reassured him that he had even subtracted an auction commission fee.
''It can stand any investigation,'' he said.
It was only then, after Judge Hou was squarely in his debt and had been assured of Zhang's sensitivity and discretion, that the auctioneer broached the favour that he wanted.
Li Ling, a law lecturer at Northwest University in Xian and researcher at New York University, has broken new ground by mapping how guanxi works in China for her recently completed doctorate. She has investigated dozens of first-person accounts (including Hu Gang's) and hundreds of court cases and investigation reports.
''As experienced guanxi practitioners often say, 'the thing is half-done once the gift is accepted','' writes Li Ling in ''Performing Bribery in China'', in the current edition of the Journal of Contemporary China.
Gifts need to demonstrate personalised care and ''sincerity'' and this usually requires careful investigation of the target's golfing, artistic or other hobbies. So prices at China's art auctions are inflated by bribers paying officials for artworks at multiples of the market price, luxury golf courses are full of members who did not pay for membership, shopping centres are full of officials' relatives using shopping cards that were given to them, and Macau is full of officials who do not pay for their gambling chips.
Choice of language is important, with a whole lexicon of euphemisms like ''doing guanxi'' available in place of vulgar words like ''bribe''.
Li writes that the art of guanxi can function as an ''alternative operating mechanism'' to break down the legal, moral and cognitive barriers to corrupt transactions.
'''Guanxi practise' is not only 'fuelling' corruption, but it is a necessary and integral part of corruption in China,'' she writes.
Hu Gang says not all transactions involve bribery, even in his court-based auction trade. He says commissions can be won by your good reputation in the industry, or paying a lot to a person you don't know, or making a long emotional investment in a judge.
''Generally, one plays the emotion card to someone from whom he or she needs help, to draw their relationship closer,'' explains Hu, who has now written a new book, Building Guanxi. ''Only gradually, after that foundation has been laid, one will explain the help that is needed … One will provide reassurances about the safety of such a deal. The other side will think, 'OK, I've been eating and drinking on your account, and generally using you, and feel sorry about that'. So, when being asked for an ostensibly legitimate favour, he or she may offer a helping hand.''