Auctions have long been compared to a theatrical event for their inherent glamour, suspense, and entertainment value. Despite the rise of e-commerce, when looking to purchase luxury goods, exclusive artworks, and one-of-a-kind pieces, the global glitterati still flock to one of the world’s top five luxury auction houses.
Founded in 1766 by Scottish born auctioneer James Christie, this auction house is now one of the world’s largest and most famous. With offices in 46 countries, Christie’s hosts 350 auctions per year in over 80 categories. At a Christie’s auction buyers will find everything in the realm of fine and decorative arts including photography, jewellery, collectibles, and more. Christie’s is known for high profile sales such as the auctions of Coco Chanel’s wardrobe, the personal notes of Albert Einstein, and the jewellery of Elizabeth Taylor. With its long history and wide-reaching presence, the Christie’s brand carries a reputation for luxury excellence around the world.
Sotheby’s has been selling luxury goods at auction in London since 1744, and became the first international auction house when it opened offices in New York City in 1955. Sotheby’s beats out Christie’s for the title of oldest and largest fine art auction house in the world with 80 locations across the globe. Sotheby’s is at the forefront of modernizing the auction industry with its online BidNow program. BidNow allows buyers to livestream all auctions and place remote bids. Sotheby’s is famous for the sale of works by high profile artists like Pablo Picasso and Peter Paul Rubens. It also set a world record in 2010 for the most expensive jewel sold at auction when Mr. Laurence Graff bought the Fancy Intense Pink Diamond for 29.5 million pounds.
Founded in London in 1793, Bonham’s has grown a reputation over the past centuries that begins to rival Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Bonham’s is particularly strong in the sale of Asian art, but buyers will also find lots for antiquities, watches and clocks, European ceramics, and more. Bonham’s has a reputation in London for excellence in the sale of jewelry, diamonds, and coloured stones. This house is also considered the European leader in the auction of motor cars and has achieved record-breaking prices on sales for Mercedes, Maserati, and Aston Martin. Bonham’s has expanded its global presence over the years and now boasts eight major auction venues and sales representatives in 25 countries.
Phillips was founded in 1796 by Harry Phillips, a former senior employee of James Christie. Harry Phillips achieved considerable success for his auction house during his lifetime, holding sales for major contemporary figures such as Beau Brummel and Napoleon Bonaparte. Today, Phillips specializes in the sale of the world’s most prominent contemporary artworks. By focusing on the 20th century, Phillips has carved out a particular luxury niche. Their house focuses on select categories including contemporary art, photography, and design. Phillips is known for the sale of works by contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst and Joseph Beuys.
With the market for luxury good growing in China, China Guardian has quickly become one of the world’s largest auction houses since its founding in 1993. China Guardian is the country’s oldest art-auction firm and was named the world’s fourth largest auction house in 2012. China Guardian specializes in the sale of Chinese artwork and calligraphy. It is estimated that 60% of their sales are in ink painting and calligraphy, but they also regularly sell Chinese porcelain, furniture, rare books, jewellery, and sculptures. Although they are a relative newcomer in the luxury auction marketplace, China Guardian as quickly established themselves as a top competitor in the field.
These auction houses are leaders in the realms of fine art and luxury goods. With long-established reputations and countless high profile sales to add to their rosters, these houses are the places to go for the buying and selling of life’s many luxuries.