American businesses create thousands of videos each week to help them attract customers, sell products and services, and inform their employees. Yet it’s remarkable that so few firms produce videos that are actually worth watching.
Sotheby’s, on the other hand, has the inform-via-video concept down pat. They know that great storytelling can create an incredible level of demand.
Today’s multi-national auctioneer of fine art, furniture, and jewelry—and seller of top-shelf real estate—Sotheby’s was originally established as Baker and Leigh Book Dealers on March 11, 1744, in London. Samuel Baker, credited as the founder, was engaged to liquidate “several hundred scarce and valuable books in all branches of Polite Literature” from the library of Sir John Stanley. That first auction was held at Exeter’s in London’s Strand.
For more than a century, Baker and his successors sold and brokered all of the great libraries sold at auction, including those of the Earls of Sunderland, Hopetoun, and Pembroke—and then, the Dukes of Devonshire, York, and Buckingham. Following the death of Napoleon, Sotheby’s sold the books he had taken into exile to St Helena—their final lot was the Emperor’s tortoiseshell-and-gold walking stick.
Fast forward to 1964.
Having opened an office in New York Sotheby’s bought Parke-Bernet, America’s largest fine art auction house. This launched a programme of expansion, with the company becoming the first international auction house to conduct sales in Hong Kong (1973), Russia (1988), India (1992) and France (2001), and the first to have a presence in China (2012).
After opening an office in New York, Sotheby’s bought Parke-Bernet, America’s largest fine art auction house. That acquisition launched a plan of expansion, with the company becoming the first international auction house to conduct sales in Hong Kong (1973), Russia (1988), India (1992) and France (2001), and the first to have a presence in China (2012).
While the auction house has been involved in some controversial deals, scandals, and lawsuits over the past few decades, they have become experts in marketing through video-based education. Art used to all about history; Sotheby’s knows the past and embraces the future. Here are a few examples.
- Rammellzee is perhaps the greatest street artist you’ve never heard of – until now. Eric Shiner and Harrison Tenzer, Contemporary Art specialists at Sotheby’s, peel back the curtain on Rammellzee’s life and explore the stories that made his practice so unique.
- Step inside celebrated American playwright Edward Albee’s Tribeca loft and discover the exceptional art that hung on his walls, including works by Milton Avery and Wassily Kandinsky. The collection will be offered in New York on 29 September.
- This summer, Sotheby’s has partnered with Sundance Institute to screen two works by contemporary artist Peter Burr in Los Angeles. We stepped inside Peter’s Brooklyn studio to learn more about his artwork and creative process.
- A friend of Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and other great contemporary artists, Roy Newell is firmly rooted in the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, but his name is largely unknown today. Ahead of Sotheby’s selling exhibition titled Roy Newell: Works from the Archive, Newell’s friend, Richard Dupont discusses Newell’s complex process.
In July 2016 the Chinese insurance company, Taikang Life Insurance, headed by Chen Dongsheng, the grandson-in-law of Mao Zedong, acquired a 13.5% stake in Sotheby’s. Taikang is now the leading shareholder of the auction house.