Bonham's Set for Expansion

Colin Gleadell has a very interesting piece in the Telegraph UK on the expansion plans of Bonham's auction house. Bonham's is going to gut and build out its headquarters in London with three new large sales rooms, skyboxes for high dollar client viewing, five new high speed lifts, raised ceilings, uniform floor levels, a new air conditioning units, a dramatic atrium at the main entrance, and a café.

Bonham's has budgeted nearly $50 million for the renovations, which CEO Robert Brooks believes will break the duopoly of Sotheby's and Christie's at the top end of the market place. With the expansion and custom designed showrooms, Bohham's has high hopes of taking business from both Sotheby's and Chrisite's as it strives to focus on the upper markets.  I had also read recently that Bonham's was changing their fee structure in the UK to match the rates of Sotheby's and Christie's. Is there room for Bonham's at the top of the market?  Only time will tell.

The Telegraph report states

The rebuild will be conducted in stages so normal operations can continue, and two of its three entrances, on New Bond Street and the listed art deco frontage in Blenheim Street, will be unchanged or restored. From the outside, the biggest change will be at the rear in Haunch of Venison Yard, adjacent to Christie’s owned Haunch of Venison gallery, itself undergoing a rebuild, which will get a complete facelift (artist’s impression pictured).

The changes envisioned are not just cosmetic. A heritage consultant’s report emphasises the unique attraction of London’s salerooms and links Bonhams’ rebuilding with the economic health of London and Westminster. The planning application positions the scheme as important not only to consolidate the art market in Westminster, but to recover 'lost ground’ to New York and Hong Kong.

For Brooks, the upgrade in both image and efficiency is another stage in his quest for market leadership, a quest that will be assisted by the new Crossrail link between Heathrow and New Bond Street. But will the changes bring in the higher level consignments which are key to Brooks’ ambitions?

At the moment, Bonhams has just two specialists in its Impressionist department in London; Sotheby’s has fourteen for its next London sales. A similar contrast in staffing levels exists in the other most valuable area of the market, contemporary art. After the bricks and mortar, Bonhams will have to strengthen its expertise in these two key areas if it wants to compete.
To read the complete Telegraph article on Bonham's, click HERE.

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