London – Bonhams, the global auction house, has acquired the renowned US auction house, Skinner. The company will be known as Bonhams Skinner. Financial terms are not being disclosed.
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Skinner holds around 80 sales a year in 20 collecting categories including Americana, Fine Art and Collectibles, and Wine, and ranging from fine violins to contemporary paintings. Important sales have included a Qing Dynasty vase sold for $24.7m in 2014, a record price at the time for Chinese art in the US; the record-setting sale of Manchester Harbor by American artist Fitz Henry Lane that achieved $5.5m in 2004, which remains the highest price for a work of art ever realised at a New England auction; and a bottle of whisky believed to be the oldest known (c.1860s) which achieved $137,500 in June 2021.
Skinner was founded in 1962 by Robert W. Skinner, Jr. who hired Stephen Fletcher as his first employee. Fletcher is now Executive Vice President and Chief Auctioneer who owns the company with Karen Keane, its Chief Executive Officer.
The acquisition of this much-loved auction house will give Bonhams greater access to the North American market, through Skinner’s salerooms in Boston and Marlborough, Massachusetts, and its highly effective digital platform for online sales. The purchase of Skinner will also build on Bonhams’ local to global business strategy, following on from the addition of Bukowskis, the leading auction house in the Nordics (based in Stockholm, Sweden) that was announced in January 2022.
Founded in London in 1793, Bonhams, one of the world’s leading auctioneers of fine art and collectibles, motor cars and jewellery, was acquired by the UK-based private equity firm, Epiris, in September 2018. Since that date, there has been substantial investment, specifically in digital, marketing, and new hires. The business operates globally from flagship salerooms in London, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and Hong Kong, with additional sales in Edinburgh and Sydney. This year the auction house will hold more than 400 specialist sales across 53 different categories.
Bruno Vinciguerra, Chief Executive Officer of Bonhams, said: “Skinner is such an iconic presence in New England, and much-loved and celebrated for the rich treasures it offers. It also has a well-established digital footprint throughout North America that complements Bonhams’ presence which will allow both companies to reach more consignors and buyers. The acquisition will enhance the local to global strategy that underpins Bonhams’ strength in the core market, so I am delighted to welcome Skinner to the Bonhams family.”
Karen Keane, Chief Executive Officer at Skinner, said: “Bonhams and Skinner are a great match. With its international reach, Bonhams brings the world to New England, and gives our world-class specialists global access. We are all really excited at the potential created by bringing these businesses together.”
Leslie Wright, Chairman of Bonhams North America, said: “Bonhams’ operations in the US and Skinner’s in New England fit neatly together, and the two are hugely complementary in terms of their specialties, networks and digital capabilities. I look forward to building on each other’s strengths.”
Alex Fortescue, Managing Partner at Epiris, said: “Bonhams is a terrific embodiment of Epiris’ approach. We have invested in people and technology, brought clarity and focus to the strategy, and built and executed an M&A pipeline. All of this has realised our vision of creating a digitally enabled business occupying the leading global position and offering exciting prospects for further growth.”