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Artwork Auctions

Thursday, 21 May 2009

artwork auctionsChristie's is known as the first solid auction house for fine art established by the ex-naval officer James Christie Senior. First auction was supervised by James Christie Senior in 1766 in London and since that time it is one of the acknowledged auctions in the world. Shortly after James purchased a special premise with the hall to hold auctions where the former naval officer learned how to sale. Christie's Auction House reached the top of its flourishing in 1848 after the French Revolution during the boom of ‘grand sales'. He is thought to make the trade with antique and fine art a real art of trade and this auction House is famous for the most well-known and grandiose auctions of the XVIII and XIX centuries.

It was James Christie who facilitated sale of art collection by Sir Robert Walpole to the Russian Emperor Catherine II. Afterwards this collection was the foundation for the Hermitage Museum.  The well-known Sotheby's Auction House, the world's oldest international auction house, was established earlier than Christie's, though the dominant positions at auctions were not paintings. The first ever Sotheby's sale was held on March 11 1744 when the company's founder, Samuel Baker, presided over the disposal of "several hundred scarce and valuable" books. He was the first to publish the Book Catalogue with firm prices, and 10 years after in 1754 he opened his own auction house in continuous operation. And for the following 100 years Sotheby's was trading in books only arranging all the Auctions for the most popular Libraries. This Auction House sold libraries owned by Prince Talleyrand, Duke of York and Duke of Buckingham and the library of Napolen that served the Emperor in his exile to the Saint Helena.

In 1778 Baker's nephew, John Sotheby, partially inherited the House upon the death of Samuel, and the auction is still known with this name. For the long 80 years this family had this business and on the top of it, they extended the business trading in small antique artwork. But paintings under the contracts were sent to Christie's while all proposals on book sale arrived from that house. The owners of Sotheby's were the first who broke the contractual provisions in 1913 selling Male Potray by Frans Hals. In 1917 Sotheby's arranged a big sale of paintings and furniture. And this Auction House held the leading positions to trade in fine artworks due to violation of the agreement.  However, in 30 years, in the early 80' Sotheby's broke and was sold to Alfred Taubman, an American businessman and owner of the large network of stores. Alfred managed to bring the Auction House to the international market again and nowadays there over 100 offices in the world with turnover of more 2 billions a year. Yet Sotheby's became the first international Auction House of Fine Art that sell on-line in the Internet. By the way, the first copy of «Declaration of Independence» was sold online for more than 8 million dollars. At the present Sotheby's and Christie's conducted almost 90% of auctions in antique and fine works in the world.

Bonhams is the third largest auctioneer after Sotheby's and Christie's that trades in quite everything. Bonhams was established in 1973 by Thomas Dodd, well-known dealer in engraving works and the book antiquarian Walter Bonham. The grew successfully by the middle of XIX century and currently Bonhams conducts auctions all over the world. It puts up to auctions paintings, cars, musical instruments, wine, carpets and design items.

If you are comfortable with Deutsch language, you may want to look for paintings at the largest Auction House in countries speaking in German. The ancient Dorotheum founded in 1707 by Joseph I, the Emperor, celebrated its 300th anniversary. Dorotheum conducts approximately 600 auctions a year in Vienna, Salzburg, Milan, Prague and other German-speaking countries. It is good to mention relatively young Auction House MacDougall's that is specialized exclusively on the Russian fine art with its offices in London, Paris and Moscow. Another House is Stockholm Auction House founded in 1674 operating only in Sweden and the Auction House Bukowskis leading in Scandinavia.

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