Georgina Adam went to the opening of Bonham’s new London sale rooms. She was impressed:
Bonhams has unveiled its “spectacular new headquarters” in London, and for once the hype is justified. In place of its rather shabby old rabbit warren, it has conjured a light-flooded, state-of-the- art building with three immense salerooms. Everything is in sleek wood, steel and glass; foldaway doors disappear into the walls, giving clear views from the salerooms into Haunch of Venison Yard. A huge car lift can bring vehicles – the second-biggest grossing part of Bonhams’ business, after paintings – directly into the building. The sky boxes have special lighting so that bidders can watch without being watched.
Matthew Girling, chief executive of Bonhams, says that to his knowledge it is the only custom-built saleroom of any international auction house. He is particularly proud of the soaring atrium, rising through five floors, that connects the building to New Bond Street.
On her Facebook feed, Adam posted Boris Johnson’s remarks:
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s fantastic to be surrounded by these Old Masters and mistresses.
In the last few months this planet of ours has achieved absolutely record prices in every category of artistic endeavour. Somebody paid, the other day, £6.2 million for a blue diamond – there’s an identical object at Accessorize – £8 million for a painting by some Russian geezer, and someone paid £20 million for a 1955 Mercedes of exactly the kind that my grandfather used to have and eventually pushed into a hole behind the house.
But, let me ask you why those sales did not take place in their country of origin: Russia, Germany, or wherever it is you find big blue diamonds? Why did they take place here in Bonhams? Have I got it right? It is because it is here that the world brings its choicest masterpieces. Why does the world come here? Because it is here that you will find the buyers.
And you may ask yourself, why do the buyers come here? Why does the world flock to Bonhams in this open-walleted, open-hearted kind of way? Well, my answer to the question is not just the time zone, the language, the bicycles and all the other beautiful civilising things. They come because of something that Robert has alluded to already, which is getting better and better the whole time – we’ve gone to the trouble in order to make this building possible to lay on Crossrail at the cost of a mere £16 billion beneath your premises. We are standing above Platform One.
I might mention the largest community of bankers anywhere on the planet, the largest financial services industry anywhere on the planet eager to convert their earnings into things of lasting beauty in case there should be a Labour government.
What is Bonham (Bonum), but the accusative of Bonus.
I’ll tell you why they come, because they know – all those reasons aside, all of which are important – they will be dealing here in London with straight talkers and straight dealers, n’est-ce pas? Unlike other jurisdictions I might care to talk about.
Where we are so punctilious in our observance of law and order that we arrest our MPs for pretending to pass their speeding tickets to their wives, and imprison them; and our police control our city with such impartiality that we detain the son of a monarch whilst he’s lurking in the shrubbery.
Above all they come here, Robert, because of the brilliance and the expertise and the sheer polka-dotted, crackling-knuckled good manners of the Bonhams auctioneers, who fly around the world like some humanitarian relief mission to bring help and succour to those in the agony of having too much money and no idea how to spend it. After Medecins Sans Frontieres,, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have Anglais sans argent.
Well done Bonhams. Well done Robert, you are doing an absolutely fantastic job, in uniting the sometimes unprepossessing objects with their unsuspecting buyers and thereby bringing jobs and growth and investment to our city – and renown to London as the leading cultural, artistic and auctioneering capital of the world.
There’s Sotheby’s, now owned by Americans, and Christie’s owned by the French, never mind, they also add lustre, but it’s Bonhams which I wish to pay particular tribute to.
Congratulations for what you have done, congratulations to the architects, Lifschutz and Co,. What an amazing thing, what an absolutely beautiful building which I hereby, without further ado, declare – (waving gavel) do you want me to do this: ‘Going going…?’ – Ok the closure of this building, or rather the old premises are departing, the new premises are coming… the old premises are going, going gone. I declare the beautiful building open!
The Art Market: Sylvester Stallone’s Painting Show (Financial Times)