For a company that was founded in 1744, Sotheby’s has seen many fashions and trends through its doors, but has always managed to keep its fingers on the pulse for its discerning clientele. As a brand, it’s internationally recognised, has a network of 80 offices worldwide and sales turnover in excess of $4 billion.
Apart from the countless works of art and antiquities it offers, it’s often the celebrity auctions that really put it center stage in the media. One of which was the sale of David Bowie’s art collection which had over a thousand online bidders, set over 59 records for new artists and saw an overall sale total of £32.9 million over two days.
To help the exposure of the sale, a series of worldwide exhibitions were staged that attracted over 55,500 to see the collection. Oliver Barker, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, stated: “David Bowie’s personal art collection captured the imagination of the tens of thousands who visited our exhibitions and the thousands who took part in the sales. Sotheby’s is truly honoured to have had the opportunity to share this collection with the world and, in doing so, offer a fresh insight into the creative mind of one of the greatest cultural figures of our time.”
Another important piece came to auction by the legendary artist Andy Warhol. In 1998, the iconic Orange Marilyn reached an astonishing $17.3 million, a new record for a Warhol artwork at the time especially considering the pre-auction estimate was $4 million to $6 million! On the Orange Marilyn, Leslie Prouty, a senior specialist at Sotheby’s remarked: “it’s just one of the sexiest colours and one of the best screens from the series.”
The piece was owned by Leon Kraushar who not only had Orange Marilyn, but also Warhol’s Red Jackie and Green Liz all of which hung in his bedroom wall. It was so unusual to have such a collection, that in 1965, Life magazine photographed them in situ, for a feature article.
Sothebys continue to host both traditional and contemporary auctions, but with such associations, they certainly shrug off the idea that historic brands need to be static and boring.