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Following on from their appointment of Jonathan Horwich last year as global director of picture sales, the company have made it clear that the move marks the latest stage in their bid to secure a greater share of the highly lucrative international Contemporary art market, an area dominated by Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips de Pury in the UK.

Mr McNerney started his career at Christie's in 1995, working there in post-War and Contemporary art until October 2007, becoming head of department at South Kensington, head of day sales at King Street and then co-head of Contemporary sales in London.

He left to join Phillips de Pury & Company as director of Contemporary art, UK moving to Ben Brown Fine Arts in 2009 as managing director.

He has also focused on sales in the Middle East and Asia as well as on the established European and American markets.

Confirming Bonhams' intentions, Mr Horwich said: "Tony is a very important appointment for Bonhams as Contemporary art is an area in which we are committed to seriously raising our game. His arrival will go a long way towards achieving that thanks to his enormous knowledge of the subject and his extensive international connections."