Gallery: Inside the 2020 Bonhams Paris auction at the stunning Grand Palais
Is there a finer place to see fine automobiles than the Retromobile Salon in Paris? As it happens, yes there is. Just down the road in the glorious architecture of the Grand Palais, Bonhams are putting on a show.
The auction firm reserves this extraordinary space for its auction every year, to coincide with the famous classic show at the Paris Expo. It might be a small schlep away from the main action, but the mixture of cars and Beaux-Arts styling is truly intoxicating.
We’ve been here several times before – Bonhams spoil us each and every year with an invite to an evening reception for potential buyers. The evening adds something extra to the mix, and we don’t mean the liberal sprinkling of champagne. Under the lights, inside the ever colour-changing dome, the cars look even more spectacular. It’s the reason that the Singapore Grand Prix looks so good, even though it takes place on a sadly dull circuit.
The building is an exhibition hall and sometime art gallery, the main art section being split across the road in the Petit Palais. It’s a domed 120-year-old structure that was completed in 1900 for the Universal Exposition at the start of the last century. It seems almost perfect that the building and the popular motor car are almost the same age.
Under its lights there are cars almost as old as the stones that make it. From an incredible 1913 Brasier (complete with oil lamps!) through Bristol, Bentley and Bugatti all the way to a Formula 1 Toyota which raced in 2009 – the Japanese firm’s last year in F1.
Some of the highlights are the extraordinary – an original Stratos sits next to its modern F430-based facsimile, just down from a road-going Lancia Delta S4. Some are slightly more mundane, a corner of the floodlit arena is held by a standard Alfa Romeo GTV. It’s a highlight of the breadth of the history of the motor car.
In fact there are seven Bugattis here, a stunning Voisin, a purple Rolls-Royce, a one-off BMW, several Ferraris and if this article feels like a breathless rush through a mighty list of cars, that’s because it is, because the collection of cars sitting on their carpeted display is almost too great to fathom.
In reality there’s little point in us listing everything here, because the stunning images will speak for themselves, so please enjoy this gallery of our evening in the Grand Palais as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you.