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Sotheby’s auction house: Excellence since 1744

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Sotheby’s auction house: Excellence since 1744

A key player in luxury real estate, the Sotheby’s Group is above all a famous international auction house, created in London in 1744. Established in 40 countries, the company made a historic record-breaking $7.3 billion in sales in 2021.

Sotheby’s: the original auction house

Sotheby’s auction house was founded on 11th March 1744 in London. Created at the time by Samuel Baker, entrepreneur, publisher, and bookseller, it is the oldest and largest auction house in the world.

Originally, and for several decades, Sotheby’s specialised in the sale of precious and rare books and managed the sale of prestigious collections from famous collectors such as the counts of Sunderland, Pembroke and Hopetoun, the dukes of Buckingham, York and Devonshire, as well as Napoleon.

From rare books to works of art

Over the years, the auction house expanded its business to the sale of coins, medals, antiques, and prints. In 1917, the company moved to 34-35 New Bond Street located in London’s luxurious Mayfair neighbourhood, in the heart of the art world.

In the interwar period, Sotheby’s developed its activity of selling paintings and works of art, before opening a department devoted to modern and impressionist art in the mid-1950s.

At the same time, the company opened an office in New York and bought, in 1964, the largest auction house for works of art in the United States: Parke-Bernet. Following this acquisition, Sotheby’s became an American company.

After this, sales expanded on an international level: • Hong Kong (in 1973)
• In Russia (in 1988)
• In India (in 1992)
• In France (in 2001)
• In China (in 2012)

Exceptional sales

The house organises the sale of private collections from famous collectors from the world art, culture, fashion, politics or aristocracy. These include:
• The Duke and Duchess of Windsor (1987, 1998 and 2013)
• Andy Wahrol (1988)
• Greta Garbo (1990)
• Jackie Kennedy Onassis (1996)
• Gianni Versace (2001)
• Damien Hirst (2008)
• David Bowie (2016)

Some works of art have broken sales records:
• Rubens' "The Massacre of the Innocent" in 2002 (£49.5 million)
• Picasso's "Boy with a Pipe" in 2004 ($104.2 million)
• "The Scream" by Edvard Munch in 2012 ($120 million)

A forward-looking society

In 2019, Franco-Israeli entrepreneur Patrick Drahi, president of the Altice Group, opened a new chapter in Sotheby’s history by buying the company.

Resolutely looking to the future, Sotheby’s has successfully developed its online business, offering a hybrid digital auction format and recently launching into NFT (non-fungible tokens) and the metaverse.

An article is devoted to these digital works of art in the Sotheby’s Rhône-Alpes agencies in Rhone-Alpes.

Sotheby’s auction house currently has 9 auction rooms and nearly 80 offices in around 40 countries around the world. More than 250 sales are organised each year and in 2021, the company achieved the highest sales turnover in its history, with a record of $ 7.3 billion.

Founded in 1976, the subsidiary dedicated to luxury real estate, Sotheby’s International Realty, is currently the world leader in the prestigious property market.


For the sale or purchase of your prestigious property in Chamonix, benefit from the visibility of a world-renowned network by entrusting your project to the Chamonix Sotheby’s International Realty team.


Sources: Sotheby’s.com website; La Croix newspaper; Le Figaro newspaper.

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