Local auction 

Bonhams buys Boston-based Skinner auction house, accelerating mid-tier auction consolidation

In a move that suggests continued consolidation in middle market auctions, Bonhams today announced the acquisition of Boston-based auctioneers Skinner. Financial terms were not disclosed.

In a press release, Bonhams CEO Bruno Vinciguerra, who was previously COO of Sotheby’s, called Skinner “an iconic presence in New England, much loved and celebrated for the rich treasures it offers.” He added that the house also has a well-established digital footprint in North America that complements Bonhams’ presence, potentially allowing both companies to reach more shippers and buyers.

The Boston-based auction house will now be called Bonhams Skinner.

Skinner was founded in 1962 by Robert W. Skinner, Jr. who, in turn, hired Stephen Fletcher as its first employee. Fletcher serves as executive vice president and chief auctioneer and owns the company along with CEO Karen Keane. It currently holds around 80 sales a year in 20 collectible categories, including Americana, fine art and collectibles – ranging from violins to contemporary paintings – as well as wine.

“Bonhams and Skinner are a great game,” Keane said. “With its international reach, Bonhams brings the world to New England and gives our world-class specialists global access.”

Skinner auction house in Boston. Image courtesy Bonhams.

Notable sales at Skinner over the past two decades include the sale of Port of Manchester American artist Fitz Henry Lane who made $5.5 million in 2004; a Qing dynasty vase sold for $24.7 million in 2014, a then-record price for Chinese art in the United States; and a bottle of whiskey believed to be the oldest known (circa 1860), which fetched $137,500 in June 2021.

Bonhams, founded in London in 1793, estimates it will hold more than 400 specialist sales this year in more than 50 collectible categories, at flagship salesrooms in London, New York, Paris and Hong Kong, in addition to sales at Edinburgh and Sydney.

It was itself acquired by US private company Epiris in September 2018, which invested to expand its reach. In January, Bonhams acquired Stockholm, Sweden-based Bukowskis.

Vinciguerra described the acquisitions of Skinner and Bukowskis as part of the “local to global strategy that underpins Bonhams’ strength in the core market”.

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