In what will be seen as a coup in the wake of the end of their relationship with Goodmans auction house last October, Bonhams will offer the 1500-lot single-owner Owston Collection in Sydney on June 25-27.
The sale, largely reserve-free and thought to be worth around AUS$8-10m, will be held in the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay overlooking the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, with a launch party at the Opera House itself.
Bonhams’ chairman Robert Brooks took personal charge of the pitch, flying to Australia with a team of half a dozen specialists to work with his local staff to secure the collection against competition from local and international auctioneers.
He was understandably delighted with the outcome and told ATG: “I’ve always maintained that, having established a good presence in Australia, we should maintain it.
“I had thought that we would eventually have to buy out Goodmans, but the silver lining to them giving us three months notice is that they ended up buying us out of our ten per cent.
“We have now re-established our old presence and that means we can move on with a 100 per cent Bonhams-owned business.”
To that end he also announced a new chief executive and non-executive chairman for the Australian business.
James Hendy, who started his career with Bonhams in London and most recently has been head of decorative arts for Sotheby’s in Australia, fills the former role, while James Bruce, of Theodore Bruce & Co, Adelaide – Australia’s oldest auction house – steps into the latter role, bringing a wealth of experience and tradition.
They will head up what Mr Brooks described as a “multi-faceted” company, selling everything from Aboriginal art and European furniture to cars and paintings.
As for the Owston collection itself, it is being consigned by receivers for Owston Nominees No 2 Pty Ltd, an investment company set up by Warren Anderson, a sometimes controversial Australian property developer and investor who built up an extensive array of English and Continental furniture, paintings, silver, clocks, works of art, taxidermy, Art Nouveau, Aboriginal and Japanese art.
“Australia is a market we strongly believe in and it’s a real privilege to be entrusted with such an important sale,” said Mr Brooks. “Single collection sales on this scale are incredibly rare and the Owston Collection gives us a great opportunity to show just what we can do.”
By Ivan Macquisten