The global art advisory firm Gurr Johns is acquiring Forum Auctions, the works on paper specialists founded by the art market entrepreneur Stephan Ludwig in 2016. The all-paper deal, which sees Forum's shareholders owning 27% of the enlarged group, should be completed by the end of January.
The move brings Gurr Johns a rounded package of international auction services to complement its appraisals, valuation and art finance divisions. It is not the first auction house that the advisory firm has bought—back in 2017, Gurr Johns acquired Dreweatts and Bloomsbury for £1.25m.
Ludwig, a former investment banker, will join the Gurr Johns group and becomes co-chief executive of the group alongside Ben Clark, who will continue to lead the global art advisory businesses while Ludwig focuses on auctions, including overseeing Dreweatts, which he used to run. In recent months, Dreweatts has handled high-profile country house collections from the Sitwell family at Weston Hall, the Hoare family at Hollycombe House and Aynhoe Park.
Forum Auctions has largely complementary disciplines as a saleroom for books, manuscripts and works on paper, with much of the expertise brought in from Bloomsbury Auctions. Specialising in Banksy editions and Urban artists has helped the firm attract international attention.
Ludwig has also been a digital pioneer, recognising the importance of auction companies developing their own sales platforms. Forum now sells almost 100% online. With the accelerated migration of bidding to the internet during the pandemic, this is a major attraction for Gurr Johns.
“Our expanded auction division will offer increasingly innovative and integrated services encouraging shoppers to become collectors across the entire art and collectibles ecosystem,” says Clark.
The newly integrated firm will use the enhanced online presence and client base to target the upper end of the middle market, hoping to fill the gap left by the closure of Christie’s South Kensington in 2017.
“We are catering to an under loved but growing sector of the market for works of art under $100,000,” says Clark.