On March 9, Bonhams announced the appointment of Edward Wilkinson, its current United States-based director of Southeast Asian, Indian and Himalayan Art, as executive director of Asia. He will take up his new position, at Bonhams’ Hong Kong headquarters, on June 1. Bonhams has also appointed Ingrid Dudek as its head of modern and contemporary art, Asia, effective immediately.
Earlier in February, Magnus Renfrew, former deputy chairman of Asia and director of fine arts, Asia, was dismissed from his post by global chief executive officer Matthew Girling, who also let go seven other members of the Bonhams Hong Kong team, citing a slowdown of the fine art market in Asia.
Australian-born Wilkinson established Bonhams’ Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art department in 2011, which, under his direction, established many world record sales including that of modernist Indian artist VS Gaitonde’s untitled work from 1963, which sold for USD 1,685,000. In discussing his outlook for his new position at the auction house, Wilkinson stated in an email to ArtAsiaPacific that “Bonhams is well positioned to build upon the successes of the past ten years in Hong Kong. Our team of dedicated specialists is focused on presenting auctions of the highest quality and providing a platform that allows for global participation in our sales.”
Prior to Bonhams, Wilkinson operated an independent art advisory for eight years and was previously the head of Sotheby’s Indian and Southeast Asian department. Having worked in auction houses in Sydney, London and the United States for the past three decades, Wilkinson is recognized as one of the world’s leading specialists in Himalayan and Indian art. At Bonhams, he will continue as head of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art, in conjunction with his role as executive director of Asia. In an official statement announcing Wilkinson’s new appointment, Matthew Girling commented, “[Wilkinson’s] track record in Asian art speaks for itself, and I am confident he is the right person to take Bonhams Hong Kong onto the next phase in its development.”
Dudek, meanwhile, joined Bonhams earlier this year and has been working with its Modern and Contemporary Art team in Asia. Before arriving at Bonhams, Dudek was vice president and international senior specialist in Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art at Christie’s, from 2006 to 2015, where she created a global-minded platform for the Asian market. In her new position at Bonhams, as director of contemporary art, Asia, she is tasked with “building the consignment and buyer base in the West for the Hong Kong sales of modern and contemporary art, as well as to develop a strategy for contemporary art to be sold in Asia,” as outlined by Bonhams. In an email to AAP, Dudek states, “Bonhams is uniquely positioned to bring highly selective, quality-driven auctions to the Asian market in all categories. Too often the auction world seems to have become a volume business, and I believe there is a real desire for more attention to value (in every sense) and connoisseurship. This is the area of the market that we feel we can contribute the most, not just in Asia but in our sale rooms around the world.”
For the upcoming Spring season, Bonhams Hong Kong is scheduled to hold several sales, including: The Sze Yuan Tang Collection of Chinese Jades in April; Prints, Photographs and Works on Paper in May; and Modern and Contemporary Art in June. In discussing the current art market of Asia, and its future, Wilkinson told AAP, “collectors from the Asian region have shown their capacity to appreciate a broad cross-section of the arts and I believe the market has the capacity to adapt very quickly. What will remain constant is the focus on quality and I believe Asia will continue to be a vibrant section of the global art market.”
Dudek also notes, “The Asian market is too large and diverse to speak of it as one monolith. In the contemporary realm, it is a place of considerable sophistication and diversity; there is a long-standing embrace, of course, of Asian artists’ own radical and distinct approaches to modernity, while simultaneously taste and interest in art from the Western modern and contemporary canon has been growing. It is cliché to call it an ‘emerging’ market, but it is a world of enormous potential and dynamism and will continue to be so,” Dudek told AAP.
Hanae Ko is reviews and web editor at ArtAsiaPacific.