10 Things You Didn’t Know About Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious auction houses, has been captivating art enthusiasts and collectors for over two centuries. With a rich history spanning back to 1744, this renowned establishment has played a significant role in shaping the art market as we know it today. While many people are familiar with Sotheby’s auctions and impressive sales records, there are numerous lesser-known aspects of this institution that are equally fascinating. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Sotheby’s:

1. The Name and Its Origin

Did you ever wonder where the name “Sotheby’s” came from? Founded by Samuel Baker in London, the company initially operated under the name “Baker and Leigh.” However, after John Sotheby joined the firm in 1804, the name was changed to “Sotheby and Son.” This name has been retained ever since, despite Sotheby’s not being a family-run business anymore.

Learn more about the history of Sotheby’s here.

2. The Oldest Auction House

Sotheby’s proudly holds the title of the world’s oldest international auction house. It has been at the forefront of the art and collectibles auction industry for over two and a half centuries, making it not only a significant player but also a cornerstone of the art world’s history.

Discover more about Sotheby’s heritage through their interactive timeline here.

3. Not Just Art

Contrary to popular belief, Sotheby’s is not solely focused on the art market. While it is true that Sotheby’s auctions feature many exceptional art pieces, they also delve into other areas such as rare books, jewelry, fine wine, automobiles, and even real estate. This diversity allows for a broader clientele and an extensive range of auction categories.

Explore the various auction categories at Sotheby’s here.

4. International Reach

With a global network of offices and sale centers spanning across 40 countries, Sotheby’s has expanded far beyond its London origins. It holds auctions in major cities around the world, allowing collectors and enthusiasts from all corners of the globe to participate and acquire extraordinary pieces of art and collectibles.

Take a virtual tour of Sotheby’s global locations here.

5. Online Bidding

Innovation plays a crucial role in Sotheby’s continued success. Recognizing the growing importance of the internet, the auction house introduced online bidding as early as 1999. This pioneering move revolutionized the auction industry and allowed individuals worldwide to participate in auctions remotely, drastically expanding accessibility and engagement.

Find out more about bidding online with Sotheby’s here.

6. Record-Breaking Sales

Sotheby’s is renowned for its record-breaking sales, with countless auction results that have captured headlines over the years. One notable sale was the auction of Edvard Munch’s iconic artwork “The Scream” in 2012, which fetched an astounding $119.9 million, becoming one of the most expensive artworks ever sold at auction.

Check out some of the spectacular sales at Sotheby’s here.

7. Sotheby’s Institute of Art

In addition to being an auction house, Sotheby’s has established the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, offering specialized educational programs in the field of art business, art law, and related areas. These academic programs provide students with comprehensive knowledge and practical skills to navigate the varied aspects of the global art market.

Learn more about the Sotheby’s Institute of Art and its programs here.

8. Philanthropic Efforts

Sotheby’s actively engages in philanthropic initiatives as part of its commitment to giving back to society. The company sponsors and organizes numerous charity auctions where artworks and unique experiences are sold to raise funds for various causes. Through these efforts, Sotheby’s makes a positive impact on communities around the world.

Discover more about Sotheby’s philanthropic efforts here.

9. Advisory Services

Aside from auctions, Sotheby’s provides expert advisory services to clients looking to buy, sell, or appraise artworks. With a team of specialists, Sotheby’s offers personalized advice and market insights to assist collectors in making informed decisions regarding their collections or potential acquisitions.

Learn more about Sotheby’s advisory services here.

10. Auction House in Popular Culture

Sotheby’s has gained significant recognition in popular culture, featuring prominently in various books, movies, and TV shows. One notable mention is the James Bond film, “Octopussy,” where a scene set at Sotheby’s showcases a stolen Faberge egg. The auction house’s appearance in popular media highlights its cultural status and influence.

Explore more cultural references to Sotheby’s in films and literature here.

Now armed with these lesser-known facts about Sotheby’s, you can appreciate the depth and diversity of this renowned institution. From its historic name to the world record-breaking sales, Sotheby’s continues to shape the art market and captivate art enthusiasts worldwide.