Van Ham Fine Art Auctions - A Family Business

In 1959, art historian Carola van Ham founded the auction house Kunsthaus am Museum in her hometown of Cologne. As Europe's first female auctioneers, van Ham continued the tradition of Menna Auction House with much optimism, sound art historical knowledge, and business acumen. Van Ham inherited her business skills from her mother, Germany's first licensed female stock broker.

After completing his studies as a banker from 1989-1991 at Sal Oppenheim of Cologne, one of Europe's preeminent private banks, van Ham's son, Markus Eisenbeis, became director of the business in 1996. He rejected the possibility of a career in banking in favor of the corporate freedom of the auction house. From 1991 to 1995, Eisenbeis studied art history, archeology, and economics in Bonn, and gained the practical experience in the auction business at Christie's in London, and at the Etude Jean-Louis Picard (now PIASA) in Paris.

Today, VAN HAM has become one of Germany's leading auction houses. In particular, our Modern Art and Contemporary Art auctions have recorded outstanding growth. VAN HAM is also one of the top-selling auction houses in Germany for nineteenth-century painting. Fine jewelry and decorative arts sales have also recorded increases in recent years.

VAN HAM conducts an average of twelve auctions annually. The sales are divided into the following categories: Modern art; Contemporary art; Old Masters; European Decorative arts and Jewelry; Photography; and Tapestries. Each auction is accompanied by illustrated catalogues and previews of the exhibitions. The sale offerings can also be viewed online.

Art objects may be consigned to auction at any time. VAN HAM's specialists will gladly provide fair and complimentary market valuations of your artworks. Works may be presented in original or by sending photographs. To evaluate collections and estates, and visits on location can be arranged.

VAN HAM's Departments

The development of our auction house has gone hand in hand with Markus Eisenbeis's vigorous expansion of its departments. In 2002, the Modern and Contemporary Department was restructured with the leadership of art historian Robert van den Valentyn. Within a few years, the international team multiplied revenues and become one of the leading auction houses in Germany for this category. Today, Modern Art and Contemporary Art is VAN HAM's new focus and of equal prestige with other collecting categories like Old Master Art and European Decorative Arts. Separate auctions of photographic works have also been established since 2000 quickly and with much success.

Philosophy and Expertise

The route to VAN HAM's current success constitutes a balance between complimentary matters: on one hand, modernization with an international focus; on the other, maintained business traditions.

Our close and trusting relationship with collectors and personal exchanges with museums and foundations form the basis of successful auctions. VAN HAM places great emphasis on personal consultation and customer service. Our dedicated team of specialists is highly valued by customers at home and abroad. They work to ensure customer confidence in the long term. A network of international offices and regular Expert Days complete our diverse offerings. Our customer magazine Intern presents auction highlights and a significant amount of editorial content, making it unique in Germany.

Transparency and Security

Well-presented information and transparency are particularly important to Markus Eisenbeis. Our consistent use and expansion of our online offerings has successfully transformed VAN HAM into an internationally-oriented auction house. Detailed information for buyers and sellers; online bidding for collectors worldwide; a comprehensive database (the "Best Auction House Archive" according to Weltkunst, 2008); and our Gallery of Records: all these features have made our homepage an exciting, informative platform.

In recent years, and with the backing of guarantees, customers have increasingly decided to purchase objects without ever having seen the original. The progressive international nature of auctions made possible through the Internet ensures that the market will remain transparent for collectors and dealers. VAN HAM checks all objects valued at over 1,000 € for theft and looting with the Art Loss Register, the world's largest private database of lost and stolen art. The process ensures that our auction house knows the proper provenance of each work of art.

As these initiatives exemplify, VAN HAM's success is grounded its continued reputation as a trustworthy and professional auction house.

The BDK and the Database of Critical Works

As Vice President of the Federal Association of German Art Auctioneers (BDK), Markus Eisenbeis represents the common interests of all German member auction houses. At the association, Eisenbeis has worked particularly hard to fight the market-distorting counterfeiting of art objects. Five years ago, he initiated the Database of Critical Works, which raises awareness of certain works and protects against counterfeiting. Such a database is unprecedented in both Germany and abroad. The database was constructed in cooperation with numerous art bequests, authors of catalogue raisonnés, as well as artist archives. 

VAN HAM Art Publications

Since its founding, VAN HAM has demonstrated widespread engagement in areas of art and culture outside of the auction business. In the publishing sector, VAN HAM has distinguished itself by founding the publishing house Van Ham Art Publications. Along with diverse works like the Fritz Klimsch catalogue raisonné, the detailed and comprehensive catalogue raisonné of the paintings of Karl Hofer (1878-1955) was published in three volumes in 2008. The catalogue raisonné of his watercolors and drawings was published in 2011. Serious art historical research forms the basis of a trusting relationship between auction houses, and art owners and buyers, and catalogue raisonné author Karl Bernhard Wohlert exemplifies this fact with his work on Hofer. Our emphasis on research and our specialists' years of experience confirm VAN HAM's important contribution to both the art historical field and art market.

Supporting the Next Generation of Art Professionals

The professional advancement of young art historians is crucial to VAN HAM. In addition to offering internships and opportunities for trainees, VAN HAM provides the chance to gain a practical education as a retail merchandiser of art, as well as seminars for professional development. As an arts and antiques auctioneer licensed and publically sworn in by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Cologne, and as Vice President of Germany's Art Auctioneers Association, Markus Eisenbeis heads the examination board and lectures regularly as a guest at universities to encourage the next generation of art specialists.