Out to Lunch with
Sotheby's Auction House
Art Auctions
Sotheby's Auction House
Art Auctions
People bidding
Discussing the evolution of the luxury auction house

ince 1744, Sotheby’s has been the premier destination for buying and selling the finest art, exceptional jewels, and highly coveted items ranging from Michael Jordan’s game-worn jerseys to rare cars. Each year, the auction house hosts more than 600 auctions across its network of auction houses in 40 different countries. As one of the global authorities in the luxury space, Sotheby’s Auction House knows a thing or two about curating one-of-a-kind experiences and maintaining its brand’s legacy amidst the changing economic, generational, and societal trends.

LIV Sotheby’s International Realty had a conversation with Josh Pullan, Sotheby’s Auction House’s Head of Global Luxury Division, to learn more about the future of this long-standing luxury icon, what makes Sotheby’s such a trusted brand, and how it’s adapted to its centuries-old identity to meet today’s consumer expectations.

Considering the shifts our culture has undergone in the past 200 years, Sotheby’s has experienced various evolutions to keep up with the latest trends and buyer preferences.

“The Sotheby’s brand is universally known and has a rich and deep heritage of 277 years, but it is also a business that has never stopped adapting, changing, and innovating throughout its long history,” said Pullan. “We are constantly looking to innovate, foresee new trends, and pre-empt collectors’ demands.”

The brand was the first in its industry to shift to hybrid and live stream auction formats, which launched in June of 2020. These new offerings, combined with in-person experiences enhanced with state-of-the-art technology, have dramatically expanded access to an unprecedented number of participants, helping Sotheby’s deliver its best first-half performance to date reaching $4.3 billion in sales.

Josh Pullan
Josh Pullan
Sotheby’s Auction House’s
Head of Global Luxury Division
“We are constantly looking to innovate, foresee new trends, and pre-empt
collectors demands.”
One of these nuances to the brand’s selection of auction experiences is the Sotheby’s App. Through this mobile app, collectors can discover extraordinary art and objects more easily, place bids from anywhere in the world, and receive real-time notifications about items of interest.

Much of these changes are being driven by the generational shift in wealth. Millennials now have a lot of buying power and this is influencing what is being bought and sold and the way in which brands are marketing those items.

“We are definitely seeing a younger demographic participating in auctions throughout our business, but particularly in our luxury sector where Sotheby’s youngest clients are to be found. There are over 40% more bidders under 40 in our luxury sales than in the fine art side of the business. Also, digital art — NFTs — perhaps inevitably skew toward the younger generations who live more of their lives digitally. Last year 78% of NFT buyers were under 40,” noted Pullan.

This next generation is fueling sales in categories such as handbags and accessories and streetwear and modern collectibles. Both categories are sold almost exclusively online and are where Sotheby’s has the highest proportion of new and younger bidders and buyers. Anticipating trends, reacting to preference shifts, and aligning itself with the latest currents in consumer interests is how Sotheby’s has maintained its status as one of the most well-respected leaders in the luxury space.

SIR Auction House
Art display
Art display
“Sotheby’s is absolutely focused on adding value to our clients and providing them with the type of services they want and need. The core of our success with our clients is our relationships, trust, and specialist knowledge,” Pullan said.

But even giants such as Sotheby’s can feel the effects of the changing economic environment. As the economy on the global scale continues to self-correct and return to a pre-pandemic state of “normal,” the waves of inflation are rippling into nearly every facet of the buying and selling experience. However, similarly to how investing in a home can help safeguard your money from inflation, so too can investing in fine art and high-value items.

The highest value lot bought by a collector under 40 is the Yoga Labs by 101 Bored Ape Yacht Club for $24.4 million USD
“The market is global, and generally art is a good hedge for inflation and currency weakness. As a category, it has performed well in the past several decades and has outpaced inflation quite significantly over a long period of time.” Pullan went on to say, “At the moment, we are continuing to see a strong and resilient market for art and luxury lifestyle. For instance, in August RM Sotheby’s broke world records, bringing in $239.2 million at its flagship auction at Monterey 2022, selling more than all other Monterey auctions combined.”

This example helps illustrate the strong desire of consumers to spend their hard-earned money on things that inspire them, connect with them, and help them invest in themselves and their future. Just as LIV Sotheby’s International Realty helps its clients and communities write their next chapter through buying and selling homes that represent their own definition of paradise, Sotheby’s guides clients toward their happy place by assisting in the curation of pieces that mean the most to them.

Pullan commented, “Throughout our long history we have promoted access to and ownership of the most exceptional art and luxury objects. Our vision remains to be the leading and most trusted global marketplace for art, luxury, and lifestyle.”

Expand your collection or begin building one with the help of Sotheby’s by downloading the mobile app, visiting the newly opened permanent gallery in the heart of Aspen, or checking out sothebys.com.