Sotheby's fine art auctions and private sales



2015-06-26 13:36:48

Sotheby's fine art auctions and private sales

Information on Sotheby's fine art auction house, including history, management, offices and notable sales

Sotheby's New Bond Street Offices Sotheby's New Bond Street, London offices


Sotheby's, the world's fourth oldest auction house in operation, is a multinational corporation that provides a range of services for the collectibles industry. A major global leader, it is one of the largest art businesses in the world, holding regular auctions and private sales along with selling exhibitions, retail, financing and art education.


Sotheby's founder, Samuel Baker, was a major London bookseller, and in 1744, he held his first auction - the library of Sir John Stanley - under the company name of Baker and Leigh. Two of the partners of Baker and Leigh (George Leigh and John Sotheby) formed their own book dealership in 1804, resulting in the current business, and the Sotheby family expanded its sales to include prints, medals and coins.

Throughout the early 20th century, the auction house built a strong reputation, and held its first auction of fine art around 1913. Sotheby's relocated to its currentheadquarters in London's famous New Bond Street in 1917.

In 1977, Sotheby's became a publicly-traded company, but was soon bought by a group of investors that then privatised it. The auction house was made public againon the New York Stock Exchange in 1988, and became the oldest publicly traded company on the NYSE.

In 2000, Sotheby's pioneering approach saw it hold the first auction on the internet. It is this innovative approach that has ensured Sotheby's remains at the forefront of the fine art auction world, regularly competing with Christie's to consign some of the most remarkable art and collectibles to auction.

Management and ownership

A public company, Sotheby's is owned by a range of shareholders, with prominent art collector Steven A Cohen amassing a 6% stake for his hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors.

The current president and CEO is William F Ruprecht, appointed in February 2000. Having worked for the company since 1981,Ruprecht took upthe position of CEO after Diana Brooks resigned.


Sotheby's has 90 offices in 40 countries, with salerooms in New York, London, Hong Kong, Doha, Beijing, Geneva, Milan, Paris and Zurich.

Notable sales

Jakob Goldschmidt Collection - 781,000 ($1.2m), 1958 Highest total ever achieved for a fine art auction

Rembrant Van Rijn, Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer - $2.3m, 1961 World record for a painting sold at auction

The Gospels of Henry the Lion - $12.3m, 1983World record for any work of art at auction

Duchess of Windsor's jewels - $83.9m, 1987 Highest total for a jewellery sale ever achieved

1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle - $7.6m, 2002 World record for any coin sold at auction

Sir Peter Paul Rubens, The Massacre of the Innocents - 49.5m ($82m), 2002 World record for an old master painting at auction

Soviet Vostok 3KA-2 capsule- $2.8m, 2011 World record for any item of space memorabilia

Pink Dream diamond - $83.1m, 2013 World record for any diamond or gemstone sold at auction

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