A fancy deep blue diamond ring under the hammer for over £6m. A Fragonard portrait sold for over £17m (a world record for the artist at auction). A 1962 Ferrari sold in the US for over $38m (a world record auction price for a motor car). A 1954 Grand Prix-winning Mercedes sold at Goodwood for over £19m. A rare garlic-mouth vase sold in Hong Kong for HK$76m-plus… Asked what distinguishes Bonhams from other auction houses, CEO Matthew Girling replies, ‘I could mention our innovative sales, our world records or our Michelin-starred restaurant, but the true source of our strength is our specialists. We offer items in 60 categories – the broadest range for any international auction house – and every single department is fuelled by passion.’
Founded in Covent Garden in 1793 by print dealer Thomas Dodd, Bonhams is the only international auction house privately owned and in British hands. Today Bonhams represents a breadth of choice for collectors, interior designers and anyone looking to furnish their home in a variety of styles.
With a world-renowned reputation for connoisseurship and service, it holds over 400 specialist sales a year at its flagship salerooms in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong.
The breadth of its reach means that Bonhams can offer items for sale wherever the works – art, antiques, jewellery, motor cars and collectibles – will attract the strongest interest and keenest bidding. Matching the item to the sale is an art in itself – and Bonhams is a master at it.
Bonhams’ New Bond Street headquarters is an award-winning building housing three technologically advanced auction rooms. Its second London saleroom in Knightsbridge stages over 150 auctions annually, in fine art, jewellery and Asian art, as well as categories such as fine books and manuscripts, entertainment memorabilia, arms and armour, 20th-century decorative arts, furniture, silver and ceramics.
Behind the elegantly curved glass façade of Bonhams’ Madison Avenue New York base, specialist sales are held in contemporary art, Impressionist and Chinese art, jewellery and watches; while Hollywood memorabilia and Californian wine are among the treasures sold at its Sunset Boulevard location – California’s largest, with 58 resident specialists.
In 2016 Bonhams held its first online-only auction, engagingly titled ‘Watches and Wristwatches from the Collection of a European Nobleman’. It sold out, 100 per cent.
Unconstrained by its 225-year heritage, numerous mergers and even being bombed out in the Second World War, this is a business facing firmly forwards.
Of course it’s not always about being good businesspeople. Sometimes it’s about advising a buyer honestly as to whether a piece will fit with a particular collection, or acting as counsellor to a seller and empathising with the emotional difficulties of parting with something precious. Above all, says Matthew Girling, ‘Every one of our specialists recognises that every item bought and sold at auction is a special event.’
BONHAMS 101 NEW BOND STREET, LONDON W1S 1SR +44 (0)20 7447 7447