TOP 3 MOST EXPENSIVE
FINE ART AUCTIONS
Sotheby's: Fine Art Auctions
The firm of Sotheby's, established in 1744, is now one of the worlds leading auctioneers of fine art painting, antiques, jewellery art, precious objects and sculpture, with a global network of over 100 offices and salesrooms, including New York, London, Paris, Moscow, Geneva and Kong Kong. Used by art collectors around the globe, the company holds numerous world records for the highest prices achieved in various categories of fine art, and its annual turnover is in excess of $3 billion.
The original founder of Sotheby's, the Englishman Samuel Baker, held the first-ever sale when he disposed of the library contents of the Rt. Hon. Sir John Stanley, for several hundred pounds. On Baker's death in 1778, ownership of the firm was divided between his nephew, John Sotheby and his partner, George Leigh. The Sotheby family dominated the firm until the mid-19th century, becoming noted for several important disposals - including the libraries of the (exiled) former French Emperor Napoleon I and other important figures like the Statesman Prince Talleyrand, the politician John Willkes, and the many rich aristocrats.
The company also expanded into related areas such as fine art prints, coins and medals, and later into paintings and objets d'art.
Dora Maar with Cat (1941). Picasso.
Sold for $95.2 million (2006).
Second most expensive work of art
ever sold at auction.
TOP IRISH PRICES
By 1917, the firm's expansion necessitated larger premises, and it relocated from its Wellington Street base to its now famous New Bond Street salesroom in London. This move coincided with immense growth in the market for Old Master paintings, drawings and other works of art. However, Sotheby's emergence as a truly international auction house did not occur until the mid 1950s, when Peter Wilson took charge and astutely capitalized on the huge rise in demand for Impressionist and Modernist paintings.
In 1955, he opened a New York office, and began to make the art-auction a special event.
His celebrated London sale of the Goldschmidt collection (consisting of 7 modern masterpieces) in 1958 was a pivotal moment and perhaps the most exciting art sale of the century. Held in the evening, with over 1,400 invited collectors, art dealers and celebrities from all over the world, the auction of all seven lots took exactly 21 minutes, fetching an unheard of £781,000, the highest amount ever recorded for an auction of fine art. Garçon au Gilet Rouge by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was hammered down to Paul Mellon for £220,000, more than five times the previous record for a painting at auction.
MEANING OF ART
IRISH FINE ARTS
WORLDS TOP ARTISTS
In 1964, Sotheby's acquired Parke-Bernet - the largest fine art auction house in America - seizing an important hold on the rapidly developing United States market for Modern art. The acquisition of Parke-Bernet's distinguished track record of selling major art collections at record prices was the single most important commercial step taken by Sotheby's to ensure its status in the international art market.
To further secure its access both to collections and potential investors, the company opened new offices throughout the 1960s in Florence, Houston, Los Angeles, Melbourne, and Toronto. In the 1970s, additional networks were opened in America, Europe and Asia, and the firm went public. Its 1977 share issue was oversubscribed 26 times, and by 1979 the Sotheby's share price had doubled. In 1983, the company was purchased by American millionaire A. Alfred Taubman and a small group of investors.
During the 1980s, the international fine art and antique objects auction market was galvanized by several important sales - attended by a host of celebrities and millionaires. In 1987, Sotheby's hosted the auction of the Duchess of Windsor's jewels for $50,000,000: a sum more than five times higher than pre-sale estimates. In 1989, the firm grossed a staggering $1.1 billion from sales in New York and London.
Towards the end of the decade (1988), the company went public for the second time.
During the downturn of the 1990s, the firm's main offices in London and New York, underwent extensive renovations. In New York, by 2000, six additional floors had been added to its York Avenue headquarters, including a gallery that has been described as "one of the great dramatic exhibition spaces of New York...an environment to rival almost any of the city's museums." By 2001, Sotheby's was able to open a second base at Olympia in London to complement sales at its New Bond Street headquarters, doubling its gallery space in London. In addition, by the turn of the Millennium Sotheby's was the first international art auction house to hold auctions on the Internet.
Sotheby's World Records
Sotheby's has achieved numerous world records for auctioned paintings and sculpture.
2006: The second most expensive artwork ever sold at auction: Dora Maar au Chat, by Picasso. Sold for $95.2 million.
2007: The highest auction price ever achieved by a sculpture: the 5,000-year old Guennol Lioness, a 3 1/4-inch limestone lion from ancient Mesopotamia. Sold for $57 million.
2007: The most expensive work from classical antiquity ever sold at auction: Roman-era bronze sculpture of Artemis and the Stag. Sold for $28.6 million.
2007: The second most expensive contemporary (ie. post-war) painting ever sold at auction: White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) by Mark Rothko. Sold for $72.8 million.
Other Record Prices
Bal Au Moulin de la Galette (1876) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Sold for $78.1 million in 1990 at Sotheby's, New York.
Irish Art Auctions
Sotheby's has been responsible for numerous record-breaking auction prices for works by Irish artists, including:
Triptych 1976. By Francis
Study From Innocent X. By
Portrait of Gardenia St. George With Riding Crop. By Sir William Orpen. Sold by Sotheby's London in June 2001, for £1,983,500.
Other record auction sale prices for Irish painters at Sotheby's include:
The Wild Ones. By Jack
Travelling Woman with Newspaper.
By Louis le Brocquy.
King Lear weeping over the body
of Cordelia. By James Barry.
Portrait of Mrs St. George.
By Sir William Orpen.
In recent years, Sotheby's has an intense rivalry with Christie's for the coveted position of the world's No 1 Fine Art Auctioneer. In February 2000, Sotheby's CEO Diana Brooks stepped down following an FBI investigation into allegations of price-fixing between the two auction houses. In October 2000, Brooks admitted guilt and implicated Taubman, the largest shareholder of Sotheby's at the time, who was himself charged with and later found guilty of conspiracy.
For more details of fine art auctions, see: Art Encyclopedia.