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To the casual observer the auction industry might seem detached from reality. And it’s easy to understand why. Cast your mind back to September 2008 when the world woke up to news that Lehman Brothers had filed for bankruptcy and the very next day Damien Hirst sold 218 artworks at a Sotheby’s sale in London for a record £111m (€130m). In the subsequent years of economic distress, the press has pounced on top lot sales, pictured next to white-gloved interns as if to emphasise the gap between the haves and have nots.

It’s a disparity that’s arguably…



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