Regional auction house Rago/Wright continues to grow, merging with Chicago-based Toomey & Co.

“It really is a duopoly at the highest level,” says Richard Wright, managing director of Chicago-based auction house Rago/Wright.which recently acquired another Midwestern house, Toomey & Co. “The overwhelming majority of auction volume is done by Christie’s and Sotheby’s. But then the low end is really dynamic. It’s fragmented, but that’s what makes the art world and the auction world vital. You don’t want everything to be the “megas”.

It is this vitality and individuality that Wright hopes to continue with the merger between Rago/Wright and Toomey. To compete with these megas, says Wright, small businesses need to band together. And according to him, after rallying these little guys, you have to make sure that they keep their identity. “Christie’s and Sotheby’s are big companies. They’re just not good at doing everything, and that’s what they’re trying to do,” he says.

Same as last year’s merge along with LA Modern Auctions, the Rago/Wright and Toomey merger will help clients at each house reach a wider collector base. Each house will share technology, expertise and marketing on the back-end, enhancing their efficiency while allowing each of the regional houses to remain distinct. And while Wright won’t say categorically if there will be any more mergers and partnerships in the immediate future, he does say The arts journal collective brands want to “grow in a thoughtful way” and that “there are other aligned brands that we think we can add value to. It’s really part of the vision we have, the shared expertise and the l ‘increased efficiency in producing successful auctions.’

The merger with Toomey & Co. will increase Rago/Wright’s presence in the US Midwest and expand its ability to serve customers on the East and West Coasts. Courtesy of Rago/Wright

This consortium of houses, which will now have a presence in the Midwest and on the east and west coasts of the United States, plans to draw on the expertise of the founders and specialists of each house to become something greater than its nominal sum. Toomey & Co. specializes in early 20th century and antebellum design, fine art, jewelry, silverware, watches and decorative ceramics, while New Jersey-based Rago is a leader in 20th-century decorative ceramics and Chicago-based Wright in modern design. With the merger, which includes Toomey specialist Riley Humler, who is president of the American Art Pottery Association and appears regularly on Antiques tourthe four houses combined hope to cement their position as the preeminent place for buying and selling American arts and crafts.

“Playing to our strengths with John Toomey and Riley Humler is a decades-old dream,” says David Rago. “With this merger, we are launching an American Arts and Crafts team unlike any other in the industry.” Suzanne Perrault, partner of Rago/Wright, echoes this sentiment: “It’s incredibly exciting to develop our expertise and expand our repertoire.” And when it comes to this high-profile competition, Wright believes that while this growing consortium is still small compared to huge international companies like Sotheby’s and Christie’s, it still has an edge. “Through the merger with Toomey & Co., we are delivering on our vision of combining the strongest independent auction houses with a shared database and web platform,” says Wright. “Our combined expertise, customer service and technology are unmatched.”

While Wright may sit at the head of the table, the merger will work more like an alliance. John Toomey, chairman of Toomey & Co., will become an executive-level partner, ensuring his home remains fundamentally unchanged.

Rago/Wright’s first auction with Toomey & Co. will take place in October 2022.

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