As I walked through Bonhams new headquarters in New Bond Street, the first thing I noticed was not just the space – the salerooms are huge – it was the light that floods into the building through vast expanses of glass. It gives a feeling of spaciousness and pleasing order while still projecting the sense of drama so essential to an auction house that thrives on excitement.
On the previous page, the Chairman, Robert Brooks, has written about how he wanted to create the most technologically advanced saleroom to date. The new Bonhams is certainly that, but it is also a building that London itself can be proud of. In our special section to celebrate its unveiling, Hugh Pearman interviews Alex Lifschutz, the architect. He discovers the challenges of constructing a building on the footprint of Bonhams' existing site that stretches an entire block from Blenheim Street to Haunch of Venison yard while opening out on New Bond Street itself. To give you a flavor of what is in store when you visit, award-winning photographer, Timothy Soar, has taken the first pictures of the new salerooms.
The new HQ will be the scene of another turning point in the history of this house. Unicef selected Bonhams to auction part of the collection of Dr Gustav Rau, the philanthropist. The sale is led by Fragonard's masterful portrait of the 5th Duc d'Harcourt, which is "widely regarded as his supreme achievement", according to Andrew McKenzie, Head of Old Master Paintings. On page 36, McKenzie writes about Fragonard's exuberant technique, while Professor Robert Tombs describes the context in which the work was painted: the final decades of the glorious court at Versailles.
The Rau Unicef sale in December is one of the many major sales this season: Fine Jewelry features the collection of the bestselling novelist, Barbara Taylor Bradford, while the Motor Car Sale – with its spectacular vehicles – will show off the capaciousness of the new salerooms to the full.
Welcome to the new Bonhams.