Bonhams Buys Boston-Based Skinner Auction House, Accelerating Consolidation of Midlevel Auctions

The acquisition 'brings the world to New England,' and creates an entity known as Bonhams Skinner.

A man bids during the Sir Michael Caine collection sale at Bonhams in London, March 2, 2022. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)

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

In a press release, Bonhams CEO Bruno Vinciguerra, who formerly served as Sotheby’s COO, called Skinner “an iconic presence in New England, and 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’s presence, potentially allowing both companies to reach more consignors and buyers. 

The Boston-based salesroom will henceforth be known as Bonhams Skinner.

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

“Bonhams and Skinner are a great match,” Keane stated. “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.

Skinner auction house in Boston. Image courtesy Bonhams.

Notable sales at Skinner in the past two decades include the sale of Manchester Harbor by American artist Fitz Henry Lane that achieved $5.5 million in 2004; a Qing Dynasty vase sold for $24.7 million in 2014, a record price at the time for Chinese art in the US; and a bottle of whisky believed to be the oldest known (ca. 1860), which achieved $137,500 in June 2021.

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

It was itself acquired by U.S. private firm Epiris back in September 2018, which has invested in expanding its reach. In January, Bonhams acquired Stockholm, Sweden-based Bukowskis.

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

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