Gurr Johns

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Gurr Johns
IndustryArt Advisory Firms
  • Gurr Johns (chairman)
  • Harry Smith
Productsvaluation of art collections

Gurr Johns is one of the world's biggest and best-known independent art advisory firms.[1] It was originally established in 1914 as Gurr, Johns and Co. when it was based at 1 King Street in St. James’s, London, on the same street as Christie's auction house.[2] Gurr Johns was acquired by its current chairman, Harry Smith, in the early 1980s. Today, as independent experts it also values about US$10 billion of art, antiques and jewellery items each year.[3]

During the first half of the 20th century, the business was initially focussed on the valuation of art collections at a time during which country houses underwent significant changes brought about by war and social and economic changes.[4] As well as undertaking valuations, and acting as an intermediary for those clients who wished to sell a work of art by private negotiation, Gurr Johns stewarded a number prestigious fine art collections and the contents of grand houses via auction. Their first major auction was the famous art collection of Robert Day of Myrtle Hill House, Cork, an Irish antiquarian who was well known as a discriminating collector for many years over a wide field of objects.[5] The auction was taken by William Gurr and took 5 days; works from the collection are now found in museums in Dublin, Limerick, Glasgow, and London.[6] In 1918, in association with In conjunction with Mr W.J. Phillips, Gurr Johns staged the auction of the contents of Llanayron Mansion House in Wales, a Georgian villa designed by John Nash (architect)and now managed by National trust [7] and in 1933, the company auctioned the contents of Titness Park, home of the late Lady Cathcart.[8]

Following the death of William Astor, 3rd Viscount Astor, in 1966, and having advised the Astor Family art collection since 1940s, Gurr Johns were instructed to prepare a valuation for probate for the collection at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, which had been gifted to National trust in 1942.[9] Gurr Johns was subsequently instructed to negotiate and steward the contents to public auction, together with Phillips, Son and Neale Ltd; the sale took place from 15 to 19 May 1967.[10]

Gurr Johns was acquired by its current chairman, Harry Smith, in the early 1980s. It now has offices in London, Hong Kong, New York, Los Angeles, Palm Beach, Chicago and India,[11] and values about US$10 billion of art, antiques and luxury items each year.[3] Famous for its tradition of discretion, the firm has advised on over US$1 billion of transactions since 2016[12] and continues to be a leading voice on the art industry and market insight. The majority of transactions are unknown as discretion is paramount for the company; however, reported examples include a record-breaking painting of Waterlillies by Claude Monet that sold in 2008 for £41 million,[13] a flower garden painting by Gustav Klimt which sold in 2017 for £48 million[3] and 13 paintings by Pablo Picasso which sold for over £112 million, including a portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter which sold for £49.8 million.[14][15] In 2019, Gurr Johns acted as art advisors to the Trustees of the estate of the late George Michael. Christie’s were instructed to offer works from the contemporary art collection, including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. Following a world tour that saw highlights exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Shanghai, the collection was sold for over £11.3 million with proceeds supporting philanthropic causes.[16]


  1. "The Art Of The Deal- Business News". Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  2. "Christie's London - Saleroom & Offices | Christie's". Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Gleadell, Colin (2018-03-06). "London's £127 million Picasso fever - and the Englishman who bought a baker's dozen". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  4. "Decline and fall of the country estate". the Guardian. 1999-12-18. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  5. Lenihan, Michael (2010). Hidden Cork: Charmers, Chancers and Cute Hoors. Mercier Press Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85635-686-2.
  6. "Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. "Advertising|1918-09-27|The Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard - Welsh Newspapers". Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  8. "Item Details Page for Sale. 1933 Apr. 24-May 3". Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  9. Trust, National. "Inventory & valuation prepared for the purposes of Insurance for The Rt. Hon. The Viscount Astor at Cliveden. Valuation no. 16834 766415". Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  10. "Bonhams : A late 19th century Louis XV style white painted and parcel gilt sofa". Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  11. "Gurr Johns | Mayfair & St James's Association". Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  12. "Home". Gurr Johns Inc. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  13. "Antique Week - News Article". Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  14. "Mystery Picasso collector on spending spree buys £49.8m portrait of Marie-Thérèse". Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  15. correspondent, Rupert Neate Wealth (2018-03-01). "13 Picasso works bought for £113m by one London buyer". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  16. "A celebration of George Michael's life, his art and his generosity | Christie's". Retrieved 2020-06-02.

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