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A Profile of Sotheby's, One of the World's Top Art Auction Houses


Sotheby's auction a Manet painting.

Sotheby's staff hold up Edouard Manet's Self-Portrait with a Palette which sold for £20 million at Sotheby's on June 22, 2010 in London, England.

Photo (c) Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images.

History of Sotheby's, an Art Auction House:

Sotheby’s was founded in March 11, 1744 by Samuel Baker who first held a sale of a private library collection in London. Expanding from its modest book auction beginnings, Sotheby’s now has over 100 offices around the world and in 1988 had sales in the range of $2 billion.

Baker’s nephew John Sotheby and Baker’s partner George Leigh took over the estate when Baker died in 1778. The Sotheby family then took over and expanded into coins, prints and medals and by the First World War had ventured into the art market.

By the 20th century, sales in Old Master Paintings and Drawings became lucrative. However, Sotheby’s auction of the Goldschmidt collection in 1958 which featured Impressionist and Modern paintings selling for record prices is one of the most notable art auctions of the century.

Sotheby’s saw that fine art was becoming an international market and opened its New York office in 1955 and acquired the US’s largest fine art auction house Parke-Bernet in 1964; thus developing the North American market for the artwork of Impressionism and Modernism.

In the late ‘70s, with optimistic growth, the company went public. Yet, the economic uncertainty in the early ‘80s, led the company to privatize. In 1988, with the wild fluctuation of the art market and its staggering prices Sotheby’s went public again. Recessions and booms are part of the art market cycles and Sotheby’s continues to grow. In 2000, Sotheby’s held auctions on the Internet.

Specializing In:

Sotheby's specializes in a wide range of fine and decorative arts including:

Ancient and Ethnographic Arts,

Asian Art,

Antiquities (Egyptian, Classical, and Western Asiatic Art),

20th Century Chinese Art,

Books and Manuscripts,

Furniture and Decorative Arts,


Musical Instruments,

Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture,

19th Century European Paintings,

20th Century British Art,

Impressionist & Modern Art,

Old Master Drawings,





Sotheby’s Auctions Around the World:

Sotheby’s hold auctions in their salesrooms in Amsterdam, Chicago, Geneva, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Melbourne, Milan, Monaco, New York, Paris, Singapore, Sotheby's South (in Billingshurst, UK), Taipei, Tel Aviv, Toronto and Zurich.

What is Sotheby's Institute of Art?:

Sotheby's Institute of Art is an educational institution offering courses in NY, London and Singapore. The courses are geared for academics and arts professionals who wish to work in the field of fine and decorative arts.

For information on specific classes and programs, as well as schedules and fees, please visit the Sotheby's Institute of Art home page.

To contact the Institute directly, please call or email: Sotheby's Institute in London at (44) 207-462-3232, mail@sothebys-institute.edu

Sotheby's Institute in New York at 212-894-1111, blair.parker@sothebys.com

Apply for a Job at Sotheby's:

Sotheby’s recommends that you send your resume and cover letter to the Human Resources department at the location you wish to work at and they will review all submissions.

Internship Programs:

Sotheby's New York and Sotheby's London offer formal internship programs during the summer. Please contact their Human Resources Departments for details.

Sotheby's Contact Info:

Telephone Phone service available Monday to Friday, 8.30 am - 11 pm GMT (3.30 am - 6 pm EST) and Saturday 2.00 pm - 11 pm GMT (9.00 am - 6 pm EST).

From the UK: +44 (0) 20 7293

From the US: +1 212 606 7000 Fax (from all locations) +44 (0) 20 7293 6555

By Mail

Sotheby's, 1334 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021

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