2021 has been a historic year for global auction house Sotheby’s. It has recorded consolidated sales of $7.3 billion, the highest in its 277-year history. With 20 more sales still to go, Sotheby’s is looking at a bumper year.
Of the $7.3 billion, $6 billion are from auctions (26 per cent up on 2019 and 71 per cent up on 2020) while private sales totalled to $1.3 billion, the company stated.
New sale formats and categories attracted a wider audience of participants (a record number of bidders joined in Sotheby’s sales, with 44 per cent of them being new to it).
With online and digital becoming a part of life, Sotheby’s too expanded its digital capabilities and reach – it had over 16.6 million livestream views this year, 4.2 million social followers across all platforms, 13.2 million unique visitors to Sothebys.com, 6.5 million unique visitors to online catalogs, and over 200,000 bids placed online this year representing 92 per cent of total bids; while online sales realised a record $800 million.
It also launched the Sotheby’s Metaverse, a first-of-its-kind dedicated Web3 enabled NFT marketplace, providing it access to a new audience. Seventy eight per cent of NFT bidders are new to Sotheby’s and more than half of them are under 40. Sotheby’s saw nearly $100 million in NFT sales. It created a virtual gallery in Decentraland to exhibit NFTs and established dedicated Twitter and Discord channels to engage with the NFT and crypto communities directly.
The influx of younger, tech-savvy collectors also saw a crossover into purchases of physical works such as Alberto Giacometti’s Le Nez bought by Justin Sun, founder of the cryptocurrency platform Tron, for $78.4 million last month in New York.
Asia has become a very strong market for Sotheby’s in the recent past. This year too, Asian collectors remained a strong force across all locations and categories, accounting for one third of all bids by value in Sotheby’s worldwide sales. Forty six per cent of lots over $5 million were bid or bought by Asians, resulting in yet another record year for Asia. Last month in New York, Asian collectors accounted for approximately 20 per cent of the bids. A couple of months back Banksy’s Love is in the Bin was also bought by an Asian collector for $25.4 million, setting a record for the artist.
The luxury market is booming and Sotheby’s luxury auctions reached new heights this year with global totals reaching over $1 billion for the first time, driven by a record number of bidders – 39 per cent more bidders than last year. The average value of items sold is up 66 per cent on 2020.
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