The Top Auction Houses: Sotheby’s

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London Calling today for Artsper. We’re taking a short trip to England and present to you an auction giant: Sotheby’s.  You don’t say! 

Sotheby’s is an international corporation specialized in the sale of art, the oldest in the world and the only auction house to be listed on the New York  and London stock exchange. The company organizes 350 sales every year, in Paris, New York, London, Hong Kong, Geneva and Milan.

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Sotheby’s headquarters, London

A brief history of Sotheby’s:

Sotheby’s, (which was not called Sotheby’s at the time), already exists in 1744, and centers its activity exclusively on the sale of manuscripts and old books. Between 1778 and 1807, under the direction of John Sotheby, the auction house expands its activity to prints, medals, coins and antiques. It is only in 1864 that John Wilkinson changes the name of the company to Sotheby’s, at the death the last Sotheby.

In 1955, the company opens its first New York office. Sotheby’s played an active part in the resurgence of the interest in impressionism and modern art by organizing the sales of the Weinberg collection in London in 1957, and of the Goldschmidt collection in 1958: seven impressionist paintings are sold in 21 minutes for 781,000 GBP, which is a spectacular outcome. In 1964, the company acquires the biggest art broker in the United States, Parke-Bernet. Just a (bitter) remark: originally, three French auctioneers, (one of them was Ader), should have traveled to the United States to acquire Parke-Bernet, but they did not think it was necessary to take the trip.

In 1964, France is already preparing its long fall to the 4th place in the world.

In the 1970s, Sotheby’s continues to open offices throughout the world: Paris, Los Angeles, Toronto, Melbourne. In 1977, the Sotheby’s shares more than double their  initial value, in just a year and a half. The 80s are marked by widely publicized historical sales.

In 1987, Duchess of Windsor’s jewels are sold for a total of $50M, five times their estimated price.

Today, Sotheby’s continues to dedicate to the quality and the value of its sales and to its international clientele. And this strategy pays off! For example, at Sotheby’s Paris, 93% of the objects exceeded €100,000 in 2010. This is a noteworthy accomplishment, knowing that France built its commercial success on the sale of lots of less than €10,000. In 2013, Sotheby’s sees its global sales increase by 19 %, all sectors included, for a global amount of €5 billion.

 

A few recent records held by Sotheby’s: 

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Clyfford Still, 1949, A-NO,1, estimated at $25 million, sold for $ 61,7 million, 2011

Mark Rothko’s 1954 No.1 (Royal Red and Blue)

No. 1 Royal Red and Blue, Mark Rothko , 1954, estimated at €40 million, sold for €59 million. Sotheby’s New York, 2010

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Pink Diamond, 59.60 carats, sold for € 61.65 million. New world record for a diamond. Sotheby’s Geneva, November 2013

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Abstraktes Bild, Gehrard Richter, 1994, estimated at £9 million, sold for £21,321,250 million

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Silver Car Crash Doubled Disaster, Andy Warhol, 1963, sold for $105 million. World Record for a Warhol

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