Sotheby’s is the second largest auction house which was founded in 1744 by Samuel Baker. It started with rare books and then decorative art. Sotheby’s expanded internationally to London, New York and Moscow. It then expanded into coins, prints and by World War I, expanded into the art market. Currently, Sotheby’s specializes in “Ancient and Ethonographic Arts, Asian Art Antiquites (Egyptian, Classical and Western Asiatic Art), 20th Century Chinese Art, Books and Manuscipts, Furniture and Decorative Arts and Jewellery”.
In 1955, Sotheby’s opened its New York location and bought Parke-Bernet in 1964.
In 1969, Andrew Festing began working at Sotheby’s and became the head of the British Pictures Department from 1977-1981. He became known as the chief expert on British pictures.
In 1983, Sotheby’s was purchased by A. Alfred Taubman, a millionaire shopping mall developer, who took the company public in 1988.
By the 20th century, Sotheby’s began to sell Old Master Paintings and Drawings which became very profitable for them.
In 2000, Sotheby’s became the first auction house to hold auctions on the internet.
In February of 2000, A. Alfred Taubman and Diane (DeDe) Brooks, CEO of Sotheby’s, stepped down because of a scandal on price fixing with Christies. Brooks admitted guilt and was sentenced to one year serving only 10 months. Taubman was given house arrest for 6 months and fined $350,000. Christie’s, Sotheby’s and their owners paid a civil lawsuit settlement of $512 million dollars.
By 2001, Sotheby’s New York completed its renovations on its headquarters.
In May 22, 2002 Norman Rockwell’s painting Rosie the Riveter sold for $4,959,500.
In May 2006, Pablo Picasso’s Dora Maar au Chat sold for $95 million dollars. It was the second most expensive piece of artwork sold at auction at that time.
In 2007, Sotheby’s opened its office in Moscow because of massive interest “among Russian buyers in the international market”.
In May 2007, the most expensive piece of contemporary art sold for $72.8 million dollars. The artwork was the 1950’s White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender Rose).
In June 2007, a bronze sculpture, the Artemis and the Stag, sold at Sotheby’s for $28.6 million dollars and was the most expensive piece of sculpture to have been sold. That same year, the Lullaby Spring pill cabinet by artist Damien Hirst sold for $19,300,000.
In December 2007, a novel by J. K. Rowling named The Beedle and the Bard, sold for $3,835,980 by London Fine Arts dealers Hazlilt, Gooden and Fox on behalf of Amazon.com. Each of the seven books had a different cover and each was hand written and illustrated by J. K. Rowling. Six of the books were given to friends of J. K. Rowling. Only one book was sold.