Colin Sheaf (OH 1965) – Curiosity
Not many nine-year-olds can claim that one of their hobbies is to collect old English pottery but for Colin Sheaf it was the perfect way to combine two of his great interests at that age: ceramics and English History. They were interests which thrived at the Hall School, where Colin remembers having exceptional teachers who created a wonderfully imaginative and stimulating environment.
He was involved with all aspects of school life and captained the 1st XV Rugger in his final year. Matches were played on Primrose Hill, where one of the main hazards was to avoid the areas where dogs had been ‘walked’ whilst tackling an opponent to the ground!
After leaving The Hall he went on to Sherborne School, and Worcester College Oxford to study Modern History. By the age of 14 he had already been in contact with the art auction houses in London, and in 1974 he joined the ceramics department at Christies where he rapidly came to specialise in Chinese art. In 2000, Colin joined Bonhams as the first International Head of Asian Art, and was soon appointed UK Chairman at the flagship International Saleroom in New Bond Street, where he remains Global Head of the Asian Art department. Since 2005, as Chairman of Bonham’s Asia, he has led Bonham’s drive into the Asian art market, culminating in opening a new auction business in Hong Kong in January 2007.
Major achievements include:
- The auction of the porcelain contents of the ‘Geldermalsen’, a homeward- bound Dutch East India merchant ship which had sunk in 1752. The unique cargo of some 150,000 pieces of ‘new’ Chinese export porcelain and gold caused a sensation and culminated in a 1986 sale which was 100% sold and made over £10million, a world record at the time.
- His ‘pro bono’ custodianship since the 1980s of the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, the world’s finest private collection of Imperial Chinese porcelain, now housed on long-term loan in a magnificent gallery at the British Museum.
- The publication of over 100 articles about different aspects of the Chinese decorative arts, and of the global art market: one book, the definitive study of Chinese Export porcelain recovered from shipwrecks: ‘The Hatcher Porcelain Cargoes’ ; and substantial contributions to others, including the ground- breaking : ‘Techniques of the World’s Great Masters of Pottery and Ceramics ‘
Not surprisingly, given how early Colin found his vocation, his advice to our current pupils at The Hall is to ‘Spot your passions early and then make sure you follow them’. We look forward to welcoming Colin back in the future to inspire a new generation of pupils.