Sotheby’s is a British-founded auction house and retail business headquartered in New York City and listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It is one of the world’s major auctioneers and brokers of fine art, decorative art, jewellery, collectables and real estate.

Sotheby'sSotheby’s is present at 90 locations spread over 40 different countries. Sotheby’s operation is divided into three segments:

  • Auction
  • Dealer
  • Finance

Sotheby’s auctions are normally held during the day and are usually open to the public. A notable exception are the occasional evening auctions which are only open to ticket holders.

Sotheby’s is the fourth oldest auction house in continuous operation. It has its roots in Baker and Leigh, a business founded in London in 1744 when Samuel Baker was tasked to sell several hundred valuable books belonging to Rt Hon Sir Johan Stanely of Alderley. The name Sotheby’s comes from John Sotheby, a nephew of Samuel Baker who became a partner in the book auctioneer firm after the death of Baker. It was with Sotheby onboard that the firm expanded into the sale of antiquities, medals, coins and prints.

Sotheby’s has reached the level of fame where it has been included in several high-profile blockbuster movies, including the Jame Bond film “Octopussy” from 1983 where Bond (played by Roger Moore) is bidding on a Fabergé egg at Sotheby’s, after replacing the real item with a fake one. The fake is eventually sold to the villain Kamal Khan (played by Louis Jourdan).

Short facts about Sotheby’s

Company type Public company

Traded as NYSE: BID

Founded In London, UK on 11th of March, 1744
Headquarters 1334 York Avenue, New York City, USA
Divisions Sotheby’s New York
Sotheby’s London
Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sotheby’s Moscow
Subsidiaries Sotheby’s International Realty
Sotheby’s Diamonds
Sotheby’s Institute of Art
Sotheby’s Wine
Sotheby’s Art Storage Facility

Sotheby’s art departments

  • Antiquities
  • Books & Manuscripts
  • Ethnographic Arts
  • Furniture & Decorative arts
  • Jewellery & Watches
  • Musical Instruments
  • Paintings, Sculptures & Drawings
  • Photographs
  • Prints
  • Special Projects
  • Wine

Sotheby’s service categories


Sotheby’s provides valuations, e.g. for prospective sellers or buyers, for lenders wanting to accept an item as collateral, for charitable donations, to establish indemnification values for government applications, and more.

Private sales

Sothebys auctionAs an alternative to a public auction, Sotheby’s arranges private meetings between the seller and prospective buyers. The identity of the seller and buyer remains confidential.

Examples of locations where Sotheby’s showcases objects available for private sales:

  • The S2 gallery at York Avenue in New York City, USA
  • The gallery at 31 George Street in London, UK
  • Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, UK
  • The Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore

Corporate Art Services

This service is available for corporations who wish to build and/or value their corporate art collections. It includes both selling and buying art.

Museum Services

This service is available for museums who needs assistance with sales, purchases, valuations, and similar.

Tax & Heritage

This service is available to assist with fiscal and legal issues associated with items handled by Sotheby’s in Europe (including the UK).

Trusts & Estates

This service is available for Trusts & Estates in the United States who need help with valuation, sales, estate tax, family division, insurance loans, collateral loans, consignment management, and more. It chiefly helps fiduciaries, executors and beneficiaries. Clients are not obliged to sell through Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s Fine Art Storage Facility

This high-security storage facility consists of 100,000 square feet of storage in Greenford Park, Middlesex, UK.

Sotheby’s Financial Services

Sotheby’s Financial Services offers tailor-made loans with property (including consigned property) as collateral.

Additional services

  • Sotheby’s Picture Library contains images available for licensing.
  • The iCollect is Sotheby’s bespoke collection management software, created for their immense database of items.
  • Sotheby’s Café in Sotheby’s auction house at Bond Street, London. The wine list is created by Serena Sutcliffe, head of Sotheby’s International wine department.
  • Sotheby’s at Auction is a monthly luxury magazine showcasing rare works of art on the market.
  • My Sotheby’s is an online system where clients can track lots and create wishlists to receive notifications when works become available.
  • BIDnow is Sotheby’s online bidding system for everything except wine auctions.
  • LiveBid is Sotheby’s online bidding system for wine auctions.