Bonhams Savoy Sale of the Century Exceeds Expectations

Bonhams began its three-day auction of 3000 lots of furniture from the world-renowned Savoy Hotel in London (18 December 2007) in front of crowds of eager bidders hoping to walk away with a little piece of history.

savoy-erez.jpgThe sale is attracting people from around the world, many of whom have a personal connection with the hotel. There was standing room only in the Savoy’s famous River Room overlooking the Thames, as Robert Brooks, Chairman of Bonhams, took to the rostrum to start the three-day sale. Bonhams report than no fewer than 4000 people have paid £30 for a sale catalogue, indicating a phenomenal amount of interest in the sale.

The ‘Savoy effect’ was evident from the start as items regularly fetched up to ten times their pre-sale estimates.

Lot 1 achieved the first round of applause when the large garden urn from outside the main entrance of the hotel, estimated at £400 – 600, made £2,640.

Top lots of the morning’s sale included:

Lot 97 – A white Grand Piano, played by Frank Sinatra on visits to the hotel, made £11,400 (estimate £2,000 – 3,000).

Lot 152 – A large oak parquet dance floor from the Lancaster Room sold for £5,040 (estimate 400 – 600) to London-based party planners, Bentley’s Entertainments.

Lot 74 – The Beaufort Screen – a large 12-panel trompe l’oeil screen by Lincoln sold for £10,800.

Lot 68 – A pair of mid-20th century chandeliers sold for £19,200 (estimate £10,000 – 15,000).

Lot 67 – The David Linley five panel wood marquetry screen sold for £16,500 (estimate £3,000 – 5,000).

But it was the smaller items picked up by individuals with a romantic association with the hotel who helped to boost the price of almost every item. For example a chrome wall-mounted ash-tray (estimate £50 – 70) was knocked down for a staggering £650. The pair of art deco birch and satinwood wall mirrors (estimate £600 – 800) made £10,800 and three umbrella stands from the Gents W.C outside the River entrance, (estimate £60 – 80) made £700.

Harvey Cammell, Bonhams Director of the Savoy Sale and Furniture specialist said:
“We always knew that this sale was going to be special and different, but frankly we have been astonished at the response to the first day of the auction. The regular applause says it all. The world has a love affair with the Savoy. That much is evident. The sale has been helped in no small measure by the media interest from around the world, which filled column inches, radio and TV air-time in countries as far apart as Brazil and China for the past three months.

“We have had hotel groups bidding for collections of chairs and tables alongside individuals decorating their homes. The effect of the Savoy name was highlighted by the sale of lot 223 – a Rosewood serving counter from the hotel’s fitness gallery, emblazoned with the name Savoy in chromium-plated letters. Bidding for this particular lot were as many as twelve people in the room chasing the £300 – 500 estimate to an incredible £9,000.”

Dotted amongst the thousand-plus bidders in the saleroom were celebrity faces from the worlds of sport, film, theatre and music for whom the Savoy has been a home from home. Ten Bonhams auctioneers, working in rotation to spare their voices, estimated that it would take three 12-hour days to get through the 3,000 lots . To save time, bidding frequently started at the low estimate but despite this, the sheer volumen of bidding lengthened the sale of each item by minutes, as prices soared above expectations.