The Art Newspaper Puts a For Sale Sign on Bonhams: It isn’t a great sign for the prospect of a sale of Bonhams auction house when the investment bankers go to the press to generate interest. The Art Newspaper reports that Bonhams profits are up in their brief story that surely comes from NM Rothschild who are following Greenhill’s failed round in 2014:
- The potential sale once again comes after an upturn in revenue. Last year the firm made £4.8m profit, up from £1.9m in 2016, according to Companies House.
Then, as now, the problem lies with Bonhams offering little to a strategic buyer. For every positive, say Christie’s getting into the classic car market, there’s a negative, adding duplicative departments that the other auction houses are either paring back or are already at full strength. Phillips has shown little interest in acquisitions, preferring organic growth. Another £4.8m in bottom line profit isn’t going to move the needle at Sotheby’s where most of the free cash is ear-marked for stock buybacks. Small players like Stanley Gibbons have shown the folly of trying to roll-up regional and small firms. And the sale is unlikely to include the central London real estate that others might covet. …
Bonhams Breaks $1m Whisky Barrier Twice in One Night: Meanwhile, Bonhams is having a great year. At a Fine and Rare Wine and Whisky sale in Hong Kong on Friday, two different bottles of 1926 Macallan Whisky were sold for more than $1m, according to Bloomberg:
- The record-breaking bottle was one of 12 numbered and signed by Italian artist Valerio Adami who designed the label. The earlier bottle sold was also one of 12 of a limited edition label designed by Peter Blake, the British pop artist best known for co-creating the cover for the Beatles Album “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.” …
The Fertitta Brothers Commission Classic Hirst Works for Unknown Bar in Newly Renovated Palms Casino in Las Vegas: Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta come from a family of casino owners and operators in Las Vegas. They also happen to be major art collectors. Neither of these trends is particularly new. Steve Wynn, who has been making a few too many headlines lately, brought art to Las Vegas as an attraction many years ago.
Nonetheless, the Los Angeles Times has a peek at all of the art, especially The Unknown Bar built around a newly commissioned Damien Hirst shark piece and a series of new spot paintings which include eight individual spot works and a single work that comprises another eight canvases:
- The bar is part of a $620-million renovation at the hotel, and one of the distinguishing features is a collection of more than 150 pieces of contemporary art on view in the public areas. During The Times’ sneak peek Tuesday, works by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Takashi Murakami, Christopher Wool, Dustin Yellin and Richard Prince as well as sculptures and paintings by emerging and internationally known street artists such as KAWS and Jason Revok were being installed or had just been hung. …
The Search for Jho Low Raises New Questions About 1MDB and Low’s Role: The Wall Street Journal has some new reporting on the 1MDB scandal and Jho Low’s role in it. If you haven’t followed the story, let’s recap. Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak set up a development fund eventually called 1MDB. The fund engaged in a complex web of transactions in Asia, the Gulf and the US. The more flamboyant ones were a series of investments in Hollywood movies, luxury condominiums, and art purchases at auction. The art purchases were unwound in 2015 for substantial losses. Since then, the US, Singapore and Switzerland have tried to investigate the flow of funds but their efforts have been stymied. Najib Razak recently visited the US to meet with Donald Trump. But unexpected election defeat, driven in part by the 1MDB scandal, has put Najib under house arrest and new scrutiny aimed at Low. The Wall Street Journal says Jho Low is in hiding. Malaysian authorities claim they know Low’s whereabouts and are asking him to answer questions. This may not happen because, as the Journal reports, Low seems to have a very powerful patron who has been supporting him since the billions in missing funds from 1MDB became public and Jho Low began taking the heat for it:
- Mr. Low’s role, they say, was to help Mr. Najib contain the fallout from the 1MDB scandal after it broke into the open in 2015[…]. To do so, Mr. Low relied on allies in China, people familiar with his activity say, where he stayed at times, including at a luxury apartment at Shanghai’s Peninsula Hotel residences. In China and around Asia, Mr. Low appeared to enjoy a protected status even after the scandal broke, traveling with bodyguards he said were provided by Beijing, say people familiar with his movements. He carries more than six phones, using each for a different set of contacts around the world, the people say.