Bonhams is a privately owned British auction house and one of the world’s oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. It was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. This brought together two of the four surviving Georgian auction houses in London, Bonhams having been founded in 1793, and Phillips in 1796 by Harry Phillips, formerly a senior clerk to James Christie. Today, the amalgamated business handles art and antiques auctions. It operates two salerooms in London—the former Phillips sale room at 101 New Bond Street, and the old Bonham's sale room at the Montpelier Galleries in Montpelier Street, Knightsbridge—with a smaller sale room in Edinburgh. Sales are also held around the world in New York, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Paris, San Francisco, Sydney, and Singapore.
|Founded||London, United Kingdom
|Founders||Thomas Dodd and Walter Bonham|
|Headquarters||101 New Bond Street, London, United Kingdom|
Number of locations
|66 locations worldwide
(as of 2012)
|Products||Fine arts, pictures, collectables and motor cars|
Number of employees
Bonhams New York
Bonhams San Francisco
Bonhams Los Angeles
Bonhams Hong Kong
Bonhams was set up in 1793 when Thomas Dodd, an antique print dealer, joined forces with the book specialist Walter Bonham. The company expanded and by the 1850s was handling all categories of antiques including jewellery, porcelain, furniture, arms and armour, and wine. After returning from the war, in the early 1950s, Leonard Bonham purchased some land in Knightsbridge and erected a saleroom on Montpelier Street. The first sale was held in June 1956. In 2000, Bonhams became Bonhams & Brooks when it was acquired by Brooks auction house. Brooks had been founded in 1989 by the former Head of Cars at Christie’s, Robert Brooks who specialized in the sale of classic and vintage motorcars. Brooks continued a major acquisition programme aimed at creating a new international fine art auction house.
In 2001 Bonhams & Brooks merged with Phillips Son & Neale to form a new UK company trading as Bonhams. Phillips Son & Neale had been based in 101 New Bond Street, which subsequently became the new headquarters of Bonhams. The building consisted of seven different freeholds and had been described as "a Dickensian rabbit warren". The first of the sites to be acquired was Blenstock House, an Art Deco building at the junction of Blenheim Street and Woodstock Street, eventually acquiring the complete building in 1974.
Acquisition activity continued, and in 2002 Bonhams purchased Butterfields, a leading auction house on the West Coast founded in 1865. Bonhams changed Butterfields’ name to Bonhams & Butterfields, and Malcolm Barber, formerly of Brooks, became the chief executive officer of the American subsidiary. Bonhams remained the company’s brand name outside of the United States.
By the end of 2003 Bonhams was conducting more than 700 annual sales with revenues of $304 million. The company’s worldwide network of sales included two major London venues, nine additional UK locations, and salerooms in Switzerland, Monaco, Germany, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sydney. Bonhams & Butterfields conducted its first East Coast sale in 2003 with an auction of Edwin C. Jameson’s collection of classic cars and antiques in Massachusetts.
During 2005, Bonhams continued to expand its presence in the USA and acquired a new saleroom on Madison Avenue in New York. The company also expanded further in Europe with the opening of the Paris office in June 2005.
In October 2005, Bonhams gained full independence after buying back a 49.9% stake held by French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.
Bonhams opened a new office in Hong Kong in 2007, to further support its expansion into the Asian market. The business in Hong Kong works with clients in mainland China, Japan, India, South Korea, Indonesia and, until 2014, Singapore. A new sale room launch in Singapore was announced in April 2014.
In March 2008, Bonhams New York moved to new salerooms on the corner of 57th Street and Madison Avenue - formerly the home of the respected Dahesh Museum of Art. The inaugural sale featured 20th century furniture and decorative arts.
By 2007 Bonhams sales totalled US $600 million.
Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries. It has four sale rooms in the UK; two major sales rooms in London – New Bond Street and Knightsbridge, as well as two regional sale rooms located at Edinburgh and Oxford. There are nineteen regional offices around the UK that perform valuations and consignments. Elsewhere in Europe, the Paris office holds regular auctions within the city. In the USA, sales are held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. In Asia-Pacific there are two sale rooms in Hong Kong and Sydney; and a sale room in Singapore was announced in April 2014. The 101 New Bond Street saleroom was redesigned by architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands to create three new salerooms and offices for the organisation.
- On 11 August 1836 Phillips, now owned by Bonhams, auctioned a large collection of furniture from Buckingham Palace.
- A George Stubbs painting entitled ‘A dark bay thoroughbred in a landscape’ sold for £1,931,650 in Bonhams New Bond Street, London on 9 July 2003.
- Bonhams held a British Airways Concorde sale on 1 December 2003 at which world record prices were achieved for fittings and fixtures from Concorde.
- On 14 July 2004 Bonhams sold a Roman glass cage cup which had formerly been in the British Rail Pension Fund for £2.6million.
- At the Goodwood Revival on 3 September 2004 Bonhams sold a 1929 Mercedes Benz Two-Seat Sports Tourer 36045 for £4,181,500.
- On 17 November 2004 Bonhams sold an 18-inch Ming dish from the Hongwu Period and set the American record for the sale of a piece of Ming Porcelain at auction.
- The bust of the Indian Prince and Sikh hero, Maharaja Duleep Singh, fashioned by British sculptor John Gibson, was sold for £1.7m at Bonhams on 19 April 2007.
- In December 2007 Bonhams held an auction of selected contents from The Savoy Hotel, London.
- Bonhams Dubai broke 33 world records with its inaugural Middle East Auction in March 2008. The sale witnessed the first Middle East artist to achieve an auction sale of over US$1 million with Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri’s stunning Swarovski crystals and glitter on canvas ‘Eshgh’ (Love) achieving US$1,048,000. Breaking the world record for an auctioned Pakistani work of art, Gulgee's 'Polo Player' sold for US$336,000 – more than four times the reserve.
- A dagger that once belonged to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal sold for £1,700,000 at Bonhams Indian and Islamic sale in London on 10 April 2008.
- An oil painting, The Sailboat, by the world’s most expensive female artist, Natalia Goncharova (1881–1962) sold for £1.7m at the Bonhams Russian Sale on 9 June 2008.
- Pianos belonging to Sir Elton John were auctioned in the Entertainment sale at Bonhams, Knightsbridge on 18 June 2008.
- Bonhams sold a two-seater Vickers-Supermarine MkIX Spitfire aircraft for £1,739,500 on 20 April 2008 at the RAF Museum, Hendon, London.
- The contents of Oscar Wilde’s favourite haunt - the iconic Café Royal – were sold on 20 January 2009 in a sale which achieved a total of £220,000.
- An Edvard Munch (1863-1944 Norwegian), Madonna, a very rare hand coloured print sold at New Bond St in July 2010 for £1.25m
- A turquoise Imperial Chinese vase, decorated with chrysanthemums, sold in New Bond Street on 10 November 2011 for £9,001,250.
- A previously unknown Velazquez discovered by Bonhams (the 99th Velazquez), an oil of a middle aged man, sold for £3m on 7 December 2011.
- The Portrait of François-Henri d'Harcourt, sold for £17,106,500 on 5 December 2013, setting a world record price for the artist at auction.
- At the Bonhams July 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale, the car that took five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio to the second of his Formula 1 world titles achieved a record-breaking figure of £19,601,500 (US$29,650,095, €22,701,864).
- Thursday, 14 August 2014 – The 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta became the most valuable car in history to be sold at auction when it realised $38,115,000 (£22,843,633 or €28,528,626) at Bonhams' Quail Lodge Auction in Carmel, California.
- On 16 December 2015, the 2,000,000th Land Rover Defender ("S90 HUE") sold for £400,000 (€548,000, $600,000) at a special auction on Bond Street. Proceeds went to charity (the Born Free Foundation and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)).
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