Sotheby’s CEO Bill Ruprecht made this comment during this week’s quarterly earnings call:
“Also positively contributing to these excellent first quarter results is our continued commitment to private sales, with private sale commissions up 79% in the first quarter. Since 2007, we have underwritten almost $1.7 billion in private sales, and we will continue to focus on this valued service to our clients. Private sales are an important source of revenue for our business and a strategic initiative for Sotheby’s.
Why is this important? Tobias Meyer recently emphasized the importance of having a worldwide platform in selling an artists work. Few dealers beyond Gagosian have such a platform and one reason for the growth of the auction houses in the last 15 years has been their ability to tap into and service the globally integrating art market.
Ruprecht is signaling that the auction houses won’t easily let go of their market share in private sales now that the auction market has returned. The level of private sales at the houses will be a key indicator to watch going forward.