Bonhams Has Acquired a Leading Nordic Auction House in a Bid to Boost Its Expansion Into Europe

The acquisition is part of the U.K. auction house's ambitious plans to expand its reach in the European market.

The flagship premises of Bukowskis in Berzelii Park in Stockholm, Sweden. Courtesy of Bonhams and Bukowskis.

Bonhams has acquired Bukowskis, a leading auction house in Scandinavia, as it seeks to further enhance the London-headquartered auctioneer’s presence in mainland Europe.

The acquisition, which was brokered for an undisclosed sum, is in-line with Bonhams’s ambitious expansion in Europe observed over the past 10 months. In April last year, Bonhams acquired The Market, an online auction platform with operations in the U.K., Europe, and the U.S. that specializes in classic and collectable cars and motorcycles. It also opened its first salesroom in Paris in September.

The latest addition to Bonhams’s portfolio was founded in 1870 by Henryk Bukowski in Stockholm, Sweden, where it operates its flagship in addition to a salesroom in Helsinki, Finland. The house focuses on a range of collectibles from from fine art and design to jewellery and watches, and has been in the hands of the Lundin family, one of Sweden’s richest families, since 2007.

“Bonhams’s acquisition of such a celebrated auction house is an important part of our strategy to further the development of Bonhams into a digital leader and a truly global player with a balanced presence across the U.S., Europe, and Asia,” Bruno Vinciguerra, CEO of Bonhams, said in a statement.

Bukowskis has set a number of auction records in the region, selling 11 out of 15 of the most valuable artworks in the Swedish market, including last year’s sale of Anders Zorn’s 1891 painting Sunday Morning, which sold for nearly 30 million SEK ($3.9 million) to become the most expensive classical artwork to sell in Sweden. The auction house also performs well in the core market, referring to artworks priced between $5,000 to $1 million, as well as online sales.

The acquisition of Bukowskis reflects a relatively active market in European hubs beyond the U.K. Houses, including Sotheby’s which reopened a location in Germany after a long hiatus, have been expanding into neighboring nations in the wake of Brexit.

Many of these auction houses, including Bukowskis, focus on the mid-level market and are not in direct competition with the two giants Sotheby’s and Christie’s. The core market may not be the source for headline-grabbing record-breaking sales but it is a major part of the market with “healthy” profit margins, according to industry insiders. About 90 percent of the contemporary artworks sold in 2021 went for less than $20,000, according to an Artprice report.

René Magritte, Torse nu dans les nuages (ca. 1937). Courtesy of Bonhams.

René Magritte, Torse nu dans les nuages (ca. 1937). Courtesy of Bonhams.

Bukowskis will retain its own brand following the acquisition and Louise Arén will remain as the chief executive. The two auction houses will explore how to work together in the future. “Bukowskis has become an industry leader in digital transformation. With Bonhams’s global reach, we can further build upon our position as the leading auction house in the Nordic region,” Arén said in a statement.

Bonhams was acquired by Epiris, a U.K.-based private equity company, in September 2018. It boasts more than 650 employees and eight salerooms around the world including two in London, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Sydney. Bonhams’ top lot last year was Pablo Picasso’s Femme au Beret Mauve, which sold for $10.8 million in New York in May, followed by the December New York sale of René Magritte’s Torse nu Dans les Nuages, which hammered at $9.98 million.

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