Bonhams Lays Off Hong Kong Head Magnus Renfrew and Seven Other Staffers

The auction house retreats amid fierce competition.

Magnus Renfrew Photo: Courtesy Bonhams

Magnus Renfrew.
Photo: Courtesy Bonhams.

Bonhams auction house fired its deputy chairman of Asia, Magnus Renfrew, along with seven administrative staff members in its Hong Kong office, according to several reports. Renfrew had not been at the house very long, having left Art Basel in Hong Kong in September 2014 to accept the position at Bonhams.

A release announcing Renfrew’s hire two years ago and a related Bonhams magazine article about Renfrew have apparently already been stripped from the Bonhams website.

Renfrew is the founder of Art HK, which eventually got snapped up by the Swiss behemoth Art Basel fair.

artnet News reached out to Bonhams Hong Kong press office and to Renfrew for comment, but have not heard back by time of publication. Eighteen people remain on staff in the Hong Kong office, according to Bloomberg Business.

Asked for comment, Renfrew told artnet news via e-mail: “I am proud of the exceptional contemporary team that I put together and wish them every success. Whilst I was disappointed and surprised at the news of my redundancy there are already exciting opportunities emerging.”

He was reportedly informed of the decision on February 25 by Bonhams CEO Matthew Girling, who flew to Hong Kong to inform Renfrew and the other staffers of the decision to terminate their positions.

The news comes amid recent market data, compiled by artnet, showing that China, the second-largest market, lagged billions behind the US market last year. There were $3.1 billion in auction sales, which marks a 30 percent decline, in 2014-2015.

Competition in Hong Kong has intensified in recent years, particularly with the arrival of mainland auctioneers China Guardian Auctions, which held its first sale in Hong Kong in 2012.

Bonhams will hold its next Hong Kong sale on April 5th.

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