Auction house Bonhams has acquired Massachusetts-based midsize competitor Skinner as the London-based company seeks to further strengthen its global and digital footprint.
The acquisition, which was negotiated for an undisclosed sum, also follows Bonhams’ decision to expand into Europe last year. In January, Bonhams acquired Scandinavian house Bukowskis from its Swedish owners in a deal that promised access to customers across the Nordic region. The acquisition came nearly a year after Bonhams bought The Market, a London-based online auction platform specializing in classic cars and operating in the UK, Europe and the US.
Over the past three years, Bonhams has seen sales activity nearly double, an auction house spokesperson said. “We operate at a hyper-local level, connecting our sellers in every market to buyers globally,” said Leslie Wright, President of Bonhams North America Division. ART news. “The acquisition of Skinner is a key moment for our US business,” Wright continued, saying the home’s location throughout New England, “provides us with another major US hub and complements our offices. regions and our bi-coastal sales rooms”.
Founded in 1962 by a New England art dealer, Skinner operates spaces in Boston and Marlborough, a suburb about an hour from the city, and hosts around 80 auctions a year in 23 categories spanning the American and Asian art, contemporary editions and luxury, among others. The company employs 75 people.
While two of the three companies Bonhams recently acquired have fine art departments, each also focuses on mid-level sales in the collectables markets, which cover luxury jewelry and car sales. Breaking further into the mid-tier market is part of Bonhams’ wider expansion strategy, as it is not currently in direct competition with its three larger counterparts (Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips). Its core market, which relies heavily on virtual sales, typically doesn’t produce the attractive prices achieved by large corporations, where top-notch unique works of art can sell for millions of dollars, but it still maintains a percentage high in sales volume across the art market. Bonhams’ online marketplace is estimated to account for nearly 25% of digital art market sales by the end of 2021, according to the Hiscox Business Report.
The expansion of the London-based house, which operates eight auction rooms in London, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Sydney, comes several years after its acquisition by Epiris, a UK-based private equity firm in 2018. Molly Ott Ambler, a specialist at New York art consultancy Gurr Johns, at the head of its fine arts division in September, Bonhams sold Pablo Picasso Woman with Purple Beret for $10.8 million in New York in May, making it the house’s top lot last year. According to an Epiris spokesperson, the house has made great strides in its digital and marketing investments since 2018.