Sotheby’s auction house - the homeland of art and culture

Added 2020-04-15 in by Kamil Kusztal

Auction house legend - Sotheby’s.


On March 11, 1744, in London, Samuel Baker auctioned several hundred books from Sir John Stanley's libraries. Among them was the collection that the exiled Napoleon took with him to the island of Saint Helena. In 1767, Baker began working with the experienced auctioneer Georg Leigh, establishing the company - "Baker and Leigh". When Baker died in 1778, his nephew John Sotheby took his place, thus replacing Baker's name on the company's sign. After 80 years it turned out that the Sotheby family played a greater role, making their auction house a leading book and manuscript auction company in the Western world. In addition, it opened its business to graphics, medals and coins. After the death of the last member of the Sotheby family in 1861, the company took over senior accountant John Wilkinson, who began working with Edward Hodge. The auction house did not sell fine art for a long time, and his first success in this field was the sale of Frans Hals's painting for 9,000 guineas in 1913.

Sotheby’s is conquering the world

In the 1950s, Sotheby's began international expansion. The then president of the company, connoisseur and businessman Peter Wilson showed exceptional genius and courage. He made a risky decision by borrowing a dangerously large loan, for which he bought out top New York auctioneers. The investment turned out to be extremely profitable. What's more, during Wilson's term, Sotheby's offices were opened throughout Europe, the United States and Asia, where hundreds of sales began to be organized. The company's turnover increased from 1.7 million pounds in 1955 to 241 million pounds in 1980, when Willson retired. Three years later, the American industrialist Alfred Taubman took over the auction house. Under his leadership, the company played a significant role in the boom for artistic investments in the 1980s, in 1991 it recorded a 50% decline in turnover, but already in 1994 it came out of the crisis exceeding $ 1 billion in annual sales.

1997 - Record year 

The year 1997 was unique for this company. At auction in New York, a copy of Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity was sold for $ 1.2 million. In Geneva, a world record was set for selling jewelry collections, obtaining 75.4 million Swiss francs for the collection of Princess Windsor's jewels. The next record concerned a single image - "Irises" by Vincent van Gogh, sold for a record $ 53.9 million. Art lovers will find a lot of interesting materials about the auction and art published on the YouTube channel of the legendary auction house: auctions: