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Case Study

A household name around the world: Sotheby’s

On 11 March 1744, bookseller and Sotheby’s founder Samuel Baker arranged an auction of ‘several hundred scarce and valuable books in all branches of polite literature.’ He raised £826 and, with it, put in motion a business blueprint that would revolutionise auctioneering, transform the modern art market and set the standard for auction houses around the world.

With a global reputation for trust, authenticity and professionalism, Sotheby’s network of specialists across 40 countries are leading experts in contemporary art, modern and impressionist art, old masters, jewellery, watches, wine and spirits, among many other areas. The company hosts more than 600 auctions every year as well as offering an enormous range of goods for immediate purchase online and in-house.

Sotheby’s success is built on an array of record-breaking and headline-grabbing sales. From the 1980s through the 2000s, the auction house listed and sold Picasso’s Garçon à la pipe for USD 104.2m, Andy Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) for USD 108.4 million, and Peter Paul Rubens’ The Massacre of the Innocents for GBP 49.5 million.

The company has led the way with many other firsts across its 280-year history, too. Sotheby’s was the first auction house to host sales in Asia, the first to hold the now standard ‘Evening Sales’, the first to bridge the Atlantic with offices in New York and London, and the first to use satellite technology to facilitate simultaneous bidding across these locations. Today, it has over 80 offices worldwide and generates annual sales of over USD 7bn.

As well as leading the way in the global auctioneer industry, Sotheby’s operates the only scientific research department of its kind. From state-of-the-art labs in New York and London, its expert team investigate paintings, sculptures, furniture, bottles of wine and more to help guide and test attributions and provenance.

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