Forum Auctions, established by Stephan Ludwig, former owner and CEO of Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions, will commence trading in June.
Forum’s books and manuscripts department comprises a strong team of specialists including Dido Arthur, Justin Philips and Max Hasler, while Alexander Hayter joins Forum as head of Contemporary art and will build up his department over the coming weeks. All worked at Bloomsbury until the spring.
They will be led by Rupert Powell, who in March resigned as deputy chairman of Bloomsbury Auctions where he had worked for 31 years. Currently on gardening leave, he will start work at Forum from the beginning of July.
In contrast to recent online-only entrants into the auction market, Forum will combine digital selling with a physical auction presence.
They plan traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ sales alongside both timed and fixed-price internet events conducted from forumauctions.co.uk.
All items will be available to view in person.
Not reinventing the wheel
Ludwig, whose departure from the Stanley Gibbons group in September was the subject of an unfair dismissal case, told ATG: “We are not reinventing the wheel. We feel that the auction market is not yet ready to fully separate the traditional experience from exclusively online events.
“We operate in a ‘trust’ industry that relies heavily on the reputation and experience of product specialists. The staff have all left well-established jobs to join me in the venture.”
Powell, who joined Bloomsbury in 1985, just two years after it was founded by ex-Sotheby’s specialists John Kerr, Frank Herrmann and David Stagg, said the business model “embodies my view on the future of our market”.
All of Forum’s staff – and book dealer Filippo Rotundo – are founding shareholders in the new business.
Rotundo’s Philobiblon Galleries will host Forum sales and events from his trio of galleries in New York, Milan and Rome, where the firm’s auction calendar kicks off with contemporary art and antiquarian book sales on June 8 and 22.
July 11 London sale
Forum’s inaugural London sale (at a permanent premises to be confirmed) will take place over two days in the week commencing July 11. The autumn calendar will include the £1m private collection of a Continental collector as well as the first London sale of modern and contemporary prints.
Whilst initially focused on books, manuscripts, prints and photographs, the firm are planning to expand into a number of other ‘online friendly’ auction fields such as wine, watches, jewellery and numismatics.
Forum have rented space at the Olympia Hilton on May 26-27 (coinciding with the nearby ABA fair) to show highlights from forthcoming sales.
Despite the exodus of core staff, Dreweatt & Bloomsbury told ATG they have a calendar of seven books and works on paper auctions planned for the coming months including a Beatrix Potter collection for sale on July 28. The content of these and future sales will “reflect the group’s decision to focus on higher-value, reduced volume sales”.