Bonhams is a privately owned international 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. Bonhams holds more than 280 sales a year in more than 60 collecting areas, including Asian art, Pictures, motor cars and jewellery. It has sales in London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Edinburgh and Sydney. Bonhams has more than 550 staff with some of the world’s leading specialists in their fields.
Bonhams in Mayfair, London, U.K.
|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,fine jewellery, Asian art 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.
As part of a phased programme of international expansion, Bonhams opened an office in Hong Kong in 2007. Seven years later, in 2014, it established an East Asian HQ and saleroom in Hong Kong in One Pacific Place. Bonhams East Asian and Southeast Asian network now also includes officed in Beijing, Taiwan and Singapour.
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.
In 2013, Bonhams opened its new headquarters at 101 New Bond Street, a state-of-the-art building, designed by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands; and in 2015 it completed a seven-figure refurbishment of its Knightsbridge saleroom.
In 2016, Bonhams held its first online-only auction. The sale – Watches and Wristwatches from the Collection of a European Nobleman – was 100 per cent sold. In September 2018, Bonhams was acquired by the UK-based private equity company, Epiris.
Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries. It has three salerooms in the UK; two major salerooms in London – New Bond Street and Knightsbridge, and a saleroom in Edinburgh. Regional offices around the UK offer valuation and consignment services. In Europe, sales are held in France, Monaco and Belgium. In the US, sales are held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. In Asia-Pacific, sales take place in Bonhams saleroom in Pacific Place, Hong Kong, and in Sydney.
Bonhams notable sales include:
- La fête d’anniversaire by Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, sold for £7,096,250, a new world record price at auction for the artist at the Impressionist and Modern Sale at New Bond Street, 11 October 2018
- An important and exceptionally rare set of four huanghuali folding chairs sold for £5,289,250 at the Fine Chinese Art Sale, Bonhams London on 9 November 2017
- A blue and white garlic mouth vase, Yongzheng seal, sold in Hong Kong for HK$76,280,000 (£6,244,187) in 2014
- 1962-63 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta, sold at Quail Lodge, California in 2014 for $38,115,000. This was the world record for the most valuable motor car sold at auction until August 2018
- Fragonard’s portrait of Francois-Henri, 5th Duc d’Harcourt, achieved £17,106,500 in London in 2013. It remains the most valuable French Rococo painting sold at auction.
- A fancy deep-blue ‘Trombino’ diamond ring was sold for £6,201,250 in London in April 2013.
- The ex-Juan Manuel Fangio 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R sold at The Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2013 for £19,600,000
- Madonna Laboris, a painting by Russian artist, Nikolai Roerich, achieved £7,881,250 in London in 2013
- Darwent, Charles, "Bonhams Breaks With Tradition," Management Today, July 1997, p. 56.
- Meyers, Laura, "Bonhams Goes Global," Art Business News, January 2004, p. 42.
- Moeran, Brian, "Jousting at Bonhams, London," Ceramics Monthly, January 1990, p. 18.
- Stanbridge, Philip, "A Hot London Summer," Ceramics Monthly, October 1991, p. 28.
- Windsor, John, "Stop Press! Art Market Says Size Does Matter," Independent, 8 May 1993, p. 34.
- Shetty, Deepika. "Auction house Bonhams opens Singapore office". The Straits Times. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- Cooper, Jeremy (1977). Under the Hammer: The Auctions and Auctioneers of London. London: Constable and Company Limited. p. 135.
- "London Auction Houses Join to Become More Competitive". Daily Mail. 13 September 2000.
- Menon, Jon (8 July 2001). "French Tycoon Proposes Merger of Two Auction Houses". Sunday Business.
- Callanan, Neil. "Bonhams Auction House Gets Approval for New London Headquarters". Bloomberg L.P. Archived from the original on 1 December 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
- Kopytoff, Verne (1 August 2002). "eBay's Offline Plan Fails, Butterfields Sold". San Francisco Chronicle.
- Shetty, Deepika. "Auction House Bonhams Opens Singapore Office". The Straits Times. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- Grant, Daniel. "Auction House Expansions Underscore Art Market Rebound". ARTNEWS. Retrieved 21 September 2010.