Bonhams achieves US$1.14b turnover in 2023, the best-ever result in its 230-year history

In 2023, amid a turbulent global economy, the auction market faced significant downward pressure. Some auction houses, however, managed to defy the odds and achieve remarkable success by employing precise strategies, discerning perspectives, and trustworthy services. 

Last year, Bonhams, with its fourteen salerooms worldwide, staged nearly a thousand auctions spanning various categories – from Art and Collectables to Luxury and Collectors’ Cars – and racked up an annual turnover of more than US$1.14 billion. That figure marked not only a 14% year-on-year increase from 2022 but also the best-ever result in the auction house's 230-year history.

Total sales aside, several key indicators witnessed significant growth as well, including registration levels, annual sales total of Asia-Pacific, total number of buyers from Asia-Pacific, total number of millennials and Gen Z buyers, and total number of lots sold online.

On this occasion, let's take a look at some of Bonhams' highlight sales in 2023.  

Bonhams' New Bond Street saleroom in London

Bonhams' key figures from 2023:

  • Annual global turnover of $1,142,000,000, the best-ever result in Bonhams' 230-year history
  • 997 sales hosted, with 395 live auctions and 602 online-only 
  • 216,262 lots sold in total
  • 62 lots sold over US$1 million
  • 33% of buyers are based in Europe, followed by 30% in North America, 19% in the UK, and 18% in Asia-Pacific, illustrating the global reach of Bonhams network
  • 45% increase in the number of lots sold online, with online auctions increasing 105% and registration levels 31%, compared to 2022
  • Annual auction total in Asia-Pacific and buyers climbed by 13%; Asia-Pacific clients spent 28% more at auction across Bonhams global network
  • 147% rise in acquisitions by Gen Z and Millennials

Regarding last year's robust performance, Bruno Vinciguerra, Global CEO for Bonhams, commented:

"This year has been one of the fastest growing and record-breaking years in Bonhams’ history. We have outpaced expectations by focusing on the core market. Combined with our expanded international platform, and the breadth of categories we offer, it shows Bonhams occupies a unique space among international auction houses. 2023 has also been remarkable for increasing our reach through offering several notable single-owner collections, such as The Alan and Simone Hartman Collection of Impressionist and Asian Art, which closed our New York season, achieving US$22 million. There were also sales of celebrity estates such as Alain Delon, Barbara Walters and Sir Roger Moore which further projected the name of Bonhams to all corners of the globe."

Bruno Vinciguerra | Global CEO of Bonhams

The Bedchamber Sword of Tipu Sultan, 18th century | Sold: £14,080,900, London | The second-most expensive lot sold at Bonhams in 2023

Following a series of acquisitions of smaller but respected regional auction houses, Bonhams Network has effectively expanded its geographical footprint across the globe, with 14 salerooms situated in big cities such as London, Edinburgh, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, Sydney, and Melbourne, among others. 

Reflecting the diversity of Bonhams' clientele and range of categories, its top ten lots for 2023 encompass a wide breadth of offerings, from classic cars and modern and contemporary art, to Buddhist art and even weapons. 

Its second-most expensive lot was Tipu Sultan's fabled bedchamber sword, which soared nearly ten times above its estimate to reach £14.08 million – around a hundredfold increase from its last auction price twenty years ago. Not only has it become the world's most valuable sword, but it has also set a new auction record for an Indian and Islamic object.

As for the top lot, it went to a one-of-four Ferrari 412P Berlinetta, the prototype racer that witnessed the epic rivalry between Ferrari and Ford for endurance racing supremacy in the 1960s. Unparalleled in its rarity and condition, this Prancing Horse eventually fetched a whopping US$30.25 million in August of last year, making it the fourth-most valuable Ferrari ever sold at auction. 

1967 Ferrari 412P Berlinetta, Chassis no. 0854 | Sold: US$30,255,000, Carmel | The most expensive lot sold at Bonhams in 2023

A collection is often the fruit of a lifetime's passion and therefore requires bespoke and considered handling. In 2023, Bonhams was entrusted to sell numerous important single-owner collections, having represented a diverse array of top collectors and extraordinary personalities to critical acclaim. 

The landmark collection of Alan and Simone Hartman, for instance, conveyed the collecting expertise and discerning taste of the esteemed art and antique gallerist couple, offering Impressionist works of art by the greatest names in art history, as well as an extensive array of Asian art. The inaugural auction eventually brought in US$22.2 million. 

Among the star lots were Sisteron (1902) by Paul Signac, which doubled its estimate at US$8.6 million, and La Seine près de Giverny (1888) by Claude Monet, which rose above its estimate at US$6.4 million. They were Bonhams' third and fourth top lots, respectively, in 2023. 

Also not to be missed was the J. J. Lally & Co. Fine Chinese Works of Art, a 68-lot auction featuring the respected antique dealer and connoisseur's properties of ancient Chinese jades, silver, bronzes, and ceramics spanning 5,000 years from pre-historic China through the Qing dynasty. Attracting fierce bidding, every single piece in the sale was sold, with the total exceeding estimates by ten times. 

Paul Signac | Sisteron (1902) | Sold: US$8,580,000, New York | The third-most expensive lot sold at Bonhams in 2023

Claude Monet | La Seine près de Giverny (1888) | Sold: US$6,352,500, New York | The fourth-most expensive lot sold at Bonhams in 2023 

Today, Asia has been a hugely significant part in top international auction houses' global business. Bonhams' Managing Director in Asia, Julia Hu, commented:

"The Asia-Pacific region continues to be a beating heart in growth for Bonhams, performing an all-round growth this year. Regionally, our annual auction total has climbed by 13%, with 13% more buyers than last year. Globally, Asia-Pacific clients have spent 28% more at auction across Bonhams global network. We saw competitive bidding from all over Asia, especially from the Greater China region. This confidence, together with our strength in the core market, position us well to continue driving the growth of the market in 2024."

The spring season marks a milestone for Bonhams' Modern and Contemporary Art Department in Hong Kong. Two sales combined brought in HK$61 million – the highest ever achieved since the international auction house established its presence in Asia, and a figure that went well beyond the pre-sale total high estimate. 

That record-breaking success was largely thanks to the single-owner sale of Manfred Schoeni's collection of Chinese contemporary art, which told the story of a trailblazing generation of Chinese art through a grouping of 14 paintings. 

Biddings were robust across the dedicated sale, with all but one lot finding a new buyer, yielding a sell-through rate of 93%. Leading the sale was celebrated Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi's Mask 2000 No. 3 (2000), which sold for HK$24.6 million and became the third-most valuable lot sold in Bonhams Asia-Pacific in 2023. 

In the autumn season, the spotlight fell on blue-chip contemporary Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, whose large-scale painting Three Stars (2014) raked in HK$36.7 million, claiming second place on the top ten list. 

Julia Hu | Managing Director, Bonhams Asia

Yoshitomo Nara | Three Stars (2014) | Sold: HK$36,754,000 | The second-most expensive lot sold in Bonhams Asia-Pacific in 2023


A Gilt Copper Alloy figure of Virupaksha | Central Tibet, Densatil Monastery, Early 15th century | Sold: HK$37,964,000 | The most expensive lot sold in Bonhams Asia-Pacific in 2023

Himalayan art has always been one of Bonhams' strong suits, and last year was no exception. 

During autumn sales, Bonhams brought to collectors an eye-catching delight: the grandest and the sole intact Densatil Heavenly King sculpture in private hands. Generating buzz in the Buddhist art collecting circle, the 15th-century gilt copper alloy figure ultimately changed hands for HK$37.9 million with fees against an opening bid of HK$20 million, setting a new auction record for any works of art from Densatil Monastery in Tibet. 

For its Chinese works of art and Chinese paintings sectors, numerous lots attracted enthusiastic biddings as well. A white jade ceremonial blade, gui, dating back to the Shang dynasty, for instance, reached HK$10.5 million against an estimate of HK$6 million; another star lot, an extremely rare calligraphy couplet written by the Qianlong Emperor in running script soared past its estimate of HK$4 million to HK$9.7 million. 

These two ancient treasures, spanning thousands of years, secured the fourth and fifth place in Bonhams' top ten lots in Asia-Pacific. 

In 2022, the 200-year-old auction house reached the US$1 billion benchmark in global sales; in 2023, that figure jumped to US$1.4 billion – let's see what surprises 2024 will bring. 

A White Jade Ceremonial Blade, Gui | Sold: HK$10,497,000 | The fourth-most expensive lot sold in Bonhams Asia-Pacific in 2023

Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) | Calligraphy couplet in Running Script | Sold: HK$9,710,500 | The fifth-most expensive lot sold in Bonhams Asia-Pacific in 2023