A British auction house has opened a permanent showroom in Hong Kong, in a bid to escape the venue shortage plaguing the booming art business in the city.
Bonhams, which has been selling in Hong Kong since 2007, has taken a 12,000 sq ft space in One Pacific Place, the upmarket tower that also houses Sotheby's Hong Kong and Poly Auction Hong Kong. Bonhams Asia chairman Colin Sheaf declined to reveal figures for the rent or investment in the site but said renting space in a prime location would be much more cost-effective than hiring hotel ballrooms for auction seasons.
"Auctions can be widely spread out through the year instead of the hyperactivity in two weeks," Sheaf said, referring to the spring and autumn auctions.
The art market boom in Hong Kong has lured a growing number of overseas auction houses, but the lack of suitable venues has been a major obstacle to their growth. While the two giants, Sotheby's and Christie's, host spring and autumn auctions at the Convention and Exhibition Centre, other auction houses are not allowed to host sales at the Wan Chai venue, preventing events of a similar nature from being held there at the same time.
May is a busy month for the art world. Besides the Art Basel fair, where 245 galleries from over 39 countries and regions will begin showing and selling art from Wednesday onwards, various auctions will take place around the same time to draw collectors attending the fair.
Bonhams and Asian Art Auction Alliance will host spring auctions from May 17. The Christie's spring auctions will begin on May 24. Many have turned to hotel ballrooms, but limited space and low ceilings restrict the type of artworks auctioneers can show. Some auction houses such as Sotheby's, Christie's and Tiancheng have their own gallery spaces. With a fixed space, Sheaf said, Bonhams "can expand business dramatically, and not have five sales in one hotel ballroom in five days".