Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bonhams: "The market for Classical and Egyptian antiquities is thriving"

I was interested to read the press release announcing the sales of antiquities at Bonhams for 2009. It started: "Following a series of strong sales, 2008 saw Bonhams’ Antiquities department established as the market leaders for UK sales of ancient art."

Yet 2008 could also be seen as a singularly unfortunate year for the antiquities department at Bonhams. The sale of the Graham Geddes collection was a PR disaster: intervention by the Italian Government, lots withdrawn, objects left unsold. And to cap it all the sale had been showcased in the Bonhams magazine (even to the point of featuring on the cover).

The sale raised some key issues about the way that the antiquities department had been operating. This new press release talks about "interesting and long-established provenance" for objects. Certainly the "provenance" of objects that had passed through a certain London auction house was not only "interesting" but also highly significant: but the staff at Bonhams seem to have missed the signs.

Have Bonhams adopted a more rigorous "due diligence" process? What action has been taken by Bonhams management team? Have they put in place new procedures to avoid a repeat of 2008?

We wait to see the latest catalogue.

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