In New York the Red Coats are Coming: Again
By Bruce McKinney
Bloomsbury, the English auction house that specializes in works on paper, has announced it's opening in New York in September. It will be located at 6 West 48th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues near Rockefeller Center. They come into New York with a clear plan and strategy. They intend, in time, to offer 20 sales a year in three distinct price ranges: entry level or bibliophile and priced from $100 to $300 and up, serious books in the middle range of valuation, and exceptional material of high value. Bloomsbury's London location, by lot volume, is the leading auction house in the category today and New York their third location. They opened in Rome this past year.
According to Bloomsbury's chairman Tommaso Zanzotto and AE's own tracking of all documented book, manuscript and ephemera lots sold via traditional auction, Bloomsbury had the single busiest auction site, by lot volume, in 2006. In that year it offered 17,044 lots up from 14,839 in 2005 and 11,788 in 2004. Christies, in four locations, offered 19,284 lots in 2006 and Sotheby's, in five locations, 10,758. Swann Galleries dominated, by lot volume, the New York auction market, offering 11,788 lots in 2006. Sotheby's and Christies have long dominated book auctions at the high end but have continued to increase minimum consignment value thus opening the market to enterprising specialists.
Bonhams entered the New York market in 2005 adding to its array of European and American rooms. Now Bloomsbury's entry brings to four the number of English houses competing in New York. Swann is the only exclusively American entry in a five horse race.
Mr. Zanzotto describes the New York location as supported by individuals of exceptional talent. Rupert Powell, Managing Director, is based in England while in New York, Tom Lamb, who served in several executive capacities at Christies, is Resident Manager. Richard Austin, who worked both at Butterfield's and Christie's, will manage bibliophile and literature sales. Jeremy Markowitz, who will manage manuscripts and Americana, and Richard Austin are the first of several specialists to be named. Stephen Massey has been retained as senior consultant. "To do this business we must have the confidence and trust of our clients." This level of hiring suggests they mean it.
The firm is currently redesigning its literature and has reaffirmed its commitment to the printed catalogue even as it expands its electronic presence. "We intend for our presentations to be clear, illuminating and insightful - understandable and accessible to all, be they the newest collector or the most experienced dealer."
The schedule of events for the fall is taking shape. An inaugural sale of Important Printed Books and Manuscripts on September 26th begins the season, to be followed closely by a series of specialist book sales including Americana, English Literature, Travel and Colour Plate Books, Illustrated and Children's Books. By the end of December the firm hopes to have conducted 4 and perhaps 5 fall sales. A prints and photographs department will open in 2008.
Consignments are being accepted. Until the office opens officially contact the firm by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is a link to their website: www.bloomsburyauctions.com