Published: July 30, 2019
A specialist in Bonhams’ furniture and decorative arts department in Los Angeles since 2018, Anna Hicks has recently been appointed the head of Elegant Home sales. Her tenure at Bonhams follows 11 years at Doyle Auctioneers & Appraisers in New York City, where as a specialist, Hicks sourced property for sale and worked with the Appraisals and Trust & Estates departments. Antiques and The Arts Weekly decided to seize the moment of her recent promotion to get to know a relatively new face in the Los Angeles decorative arts scene and see what she wants to do in her new role.
Your career started with an art history undergraduate degree in European paintings, but you eventually switched to decorative arts. What prompted the change?
After receiving my undergraduate degree, I decided to attend the Sotheby’s Institute Art Business program. Before starting the course, I had an internship at a Dallas-based auction house in the decorative art department and I fell in love with handling property and thinking of everyday objects as art. When the internship was over, I decided to switch to the Fine and Decorative Arts program, focusing on decorative arts.
At Sotheby’s Institute, you studied Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century furniture and decorative arts…was the focus on English? European? American? How did the course prepare you for your job at Doyle?
Mainly English and European with a bit of Asian works of art. The Sotheby’s course provided a great base of knowledge for entering the auction world. Classes in techniques and materials were particularly helpful, but really getting to handle objects during exhibitions was the best tool.
One might imagine that Los Angeles might be a bit of a culture shock after living and working in New York City. Have you noticed different trends among what local buyers on the West Coast are looking for versus local buyers on the East Coast?
It has been! While there are diverse pockets of collectors and private buyers on both coasts, I would say in the furniture and decorative arts, opulence is sought out by many local clients.
Do you have a particular niche you particularly love? What is it about that that particularly speaks to you?
Not particularly. The things I love come and go, just like trends in collecting and decorating. In a way, that has been a good thing for me as it has really made me a generalist in all things furniture and decorative arts.
What makes Bonhams Elegant Home sales stand apart from other Los Angeles area auction houses?
The sales encompass property that really appeals to so many different audiences. Because the category is so broad, we are able to provide a diverse amount of property to all our various buyers, whether it be private clients looking for a rare carousel horse, a decorator in search of the perfect chandelier or buyers in the trade looking for the impeccable French commode to complete their inventory.
Elegant Home sales used to work with decorators but it seems as though that has sort of petered out – any plans to reinvigorate that? Do you have any changes you’d like to make to the sale format?
Possibly. It’s always fun to have fresh eyes on the property we bring in and see what influence that can bring to a sale. We have started working on a few changes for the sale format, including an updated catalog. We will roll out a few more in the new year, so keep your eyes open for those.
Bonhams has a long history in Los Angeles, arguably longer than most auction houses, many of which have sprung up in the last 10 to 20 years. Can you still see that longevity as a benefit to Bonhams?
Of course! It’s wonderful to work for a house with more than 200 years of history. Clients love the regional, national and international outreach we are able to provide. Though the sales are based in LA, we have an extensive list of national and international buyers for every sale.
What does Bonhams do to bring in new and/or younger buyers?
Bonhams has really stepped up its social media presence and online advertising in order to bring in a younger audience. The furniture and decorative arts can be a little more difficult as it’s not often seen as glamorous, but we have a few plans for the future, and we are hoping to show younger audience why old is in!
Do you collect? If so, what do you collect? What would you collect if you could?
I do not. Every time I fall in love with an object and think I want to begin collecting, I find something new and exciting I have never seen before and change my mind, thus creating a cycle of never collecting!
I know you’ve just wrapped up your Spring Elegant Home sale but when is your next sale? Do you have anything interesting lined up for that yet? Any important collections or estates you’d like to mention here first?
The next Elegant Home sale is November 18. We have a few wonderful estates coming up, including property from the collection of Nicole and William M. Keck II. In October, we will offer the contents of a Virginia country estate – the collection of Eric Steiner – as a single-owner sale.
Both sales sound interesting…can you give us a scoop on any of the top lots from either sale?
The Steiner collection features a wonderfully diverse group of fine art and furniture, ranging from a monumental pair of Italian Baroque mirrors ($40/60,000) and a Lion Hunt painting after Sir Peter Paul Rubens ($20/30,000) to a Wurlitzer 850 Peacock jukebox ($25/35,000) and Richard Pettibone’s Andy Warhol, “32 Cans of Campbell’s Soup” ($150/250,000).
Highlights from the Keck collection include a George III silver ink stand, with the mark of Paul Storr ($10/15,000) and a William and Mary marquetry inlaid tall case clock ($20/30,000).
-Madelia Hickman Ring
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