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Sotheby’s Celebrates 275 Years Since First Sale

In 1744, Sotheby’s held its first auction—a books sale in London that totaled £826.

Founded by Samuel Baker, Sotheby’s began as a bookseller in London, and over the years, it has continued to auction literary works, including the unpublished papers of Sir Isaac Newton, Martin Luther King Jr.’s collection, and the Magna Carta.

By 1883, the auction house had started selling art. Ninety years later, Sotheby’s sold works by living artists, such as Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg, for the first time, bringing new attention and recognition of modern art. In 1958, Sotheby’s obtained a collection belonging to Jakob Goldschmidt of of seven paintings by leading impressionist and post-impressionist artists Édouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, Vincent Van Gogh, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir for a sale. The auction was put on as a black-tie evening event and became the standard for what is known today as the evening sale.

In the 275 years since then, the firm has expanded both geographically and in the types of works it sells.

To celebrate the 275th anniversary, Sotheby’s chairman of the board, Domenico De Sole, accompanied by colleagues, rang the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange Monday morning, where Sotheby’s is the oldest company traded. .


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