Bonhams is a British auction house and one of the world's oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. It was founded in 1793 by Thomas Dodd and Walter Bonham.
Bonhams employs 700 people and has salerooms across the globe.
In 2007, its worldwide sales totalled $600million.
Foundation and Ownership
Founded in 1793, Bonhams initially dealt in antique prints and books. By the 1850s, the company had significantly expanded to include the sale of jewellery, porcelain, furniture, arms and armour, and fine wines.
In the 1950s, the Bonham family purchased land in Knightsbridge, London, adding a second saleroom in the city.
In 2000, the company was bought by Brooks auction house, becoming Bonham & Brooks. The next year, the company merged with Phillips Son & Neale and reverted to the name Bonhams.
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Since then, the company headquarters has been 101 New Bond Street, a “Dickensian rabbit warren” of freeholds, according to the Bonhams website.
In 2002, Bonhams purchased American auction house Butterfields, and by 2005 had regained full independence after purchasing a 49.9% stake owned by French conglomerate, LVMH.
Bonhams now has a global network of offices in 25 countries, with salerooms located across the world, in cities including Edinburgh, Los Angeles, New York, Sydney, Dubai and Paris.
Expertise and services
Bonhams is recognised worldwide throughout all sectors of the fine art, antiques and collectors' market, with several of its departments established world leaders within their specialist category.
In 2009, the company reported that it had come to dominate key areas in the UK art market, including antiquities, clocks, glass, jewellery, wine and watches.
Alongside the core function of auctioning goods for clients, Bonhams provides other related services.
Bonhams provides a renowned valuation service for clients, including private individuals, museums, businesses, and government institutions.
The Bonhams’ press team handles its publicity and advertising campaigns across the world, in order to maximise positive media exposure and boost its clients’ sales.
Bonhams also publishes a magazine, highlighting upcoming sales and containing various in-depth articles on pieces for sale, museums and cultural life in various cities.
Bonhams has a very wide range of departments; a selection is detailed below.
Bonhams’ Antiquities department is headed by Madeleine Perridge. The department, considered a world leader, has bi-annual auctions of items dating from 4000 BC to the 12th Century AD, from a variety of locations, such as Egypt, the Near East and Europe.
Items sold have been fashioned from marble, bronze, glass, gold, pottery and stone, including items such as busts, plates and statuettes.
Arms and Armour
The Arms and Armour department is led by David Williams in the UK, and by Paul Carella in the USA. The leading auctioneer of arms and armour in 2009, the Bonhams’ department covers a wide range of European and Eastern armour and edged weapons.
Items sold include firearms such as wheel-lock, flintlock, percussion and pin-fire rifles, guns, pistols and revolvers and American firearms by the great makers such as Colt and Winchester.
In addition, the department deals with Islamic and Japanese weapons and armour, as well as many other items relating to the armourer and his craft from the 14th Century to the late 19th Century.
The department is also a specialist in the sale of sporting guns.
Ceramics and Glass
Mark Oliver is the departmental director of Ceramics and Glass. A speciality of the department is the sale of 20th Century decorative arts, covering glass, metalwares, sculpture and furniture from the period 1860 to the present day.
The department has a particular focus on Art Nouveau and Art Deco works.
The antique glass department, headed by Simon Cottle, is one of the largest international auctioneers in its field. Items sold include Irish, Venetian and Bohemian glass, and English and Dutch wine glasses, with lots dating from 1450 to 1920.
The porcelain and pottery department is led by John Sandon, and is considered a market leader. The department specialises in European Ceramics, such as Meissen and Sèvres, and has sold many famous collections.
Clocks and Watches
Bonhams sells more clocks than any other auction house in the world, a testament to the strength of this department. Headed by James Stratton in the UK and Jonathan Snellenburg in the USA, the department has achieved world record prices for items.
Items sold have included longcase, bracket, mantel, novelty and carriage clocks as well as marine chronometers, from such great workshops as Tompion, East, Knibb, Fromanteel, Windmills, Quare and many others.
A market leader in watch auctions, the department is well-respected and experienced, selling watches by manufacturers including Patek Philippe, Rolex, Vacheron Constantin.
Led by worldwide departmental director Matthew Girling, the jewellery department covers the UK, the USA, Hong Kong and Australia.
The department sells a variety of antique, period and modern jewellery, from jewellers including Cartier and Tiffany, covering diamonds, rubies, sapphires and pearls.
Three high profile fine jewellery sales are held each year in London, as well as monthly jewellery auctions for items valued between £500-5000.
A renowned department led by Colin Sheaf in the UK and Dessa Goddard in the USA, it covers fine works of art hailing from China, Japan, the Himalayas and Southeast Asia, dating from the Neolithic to the Qing period in China, from the Jomon to the Meiji period in Japan.
Chinese items include Imperial porcelain, white and spinach green jades, and Buddhist art. Bonhams became the leading auction house for Japanese art in 2009, selling items ranging from Meiji metalwork, cloisonné enamel, ivory, paintings, armour and swords.
Sales of Japanese art are bi-annual.
Bonhams sold a George Stubbs painting entitled 'A dark bay thoroughbred in a landscape' for £1,931,650 in July 2003.
The company also held a very successful British Airways Concorde sale in December 2003, setting world record prices for fittings and fixtures from Concorde.
Other notable sales include a Roman glass cage cup for £2.6million and a 1929 Mercedes Benz Two-Seat Sports Tourer 36045 for £4,181,500.
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