When it comes to buying works of art that are of a most superlative quality, the likelihood is that they will be handled and sold at one of the world’s most preeminent auction houses.

The reason for this is fairly straightforward. Big auction houses come with history, which in turn delivers on expertise, the kind that is needed when dealing with works of art that are valued in the millions.

Therefore, as a buyer or seller, you can trust that working with the likes of Bonhams, Christie’s, Sotheby’s or Phillips de Pury & Company will result in the most accurate sale, reflective of their ability to appropriately gauge the value of a work and attract big names.

Afterwards, when it comes to transporting works of fine art back home, you will be safe in the knowledge that going to a major auction house was the best decision ever. Now all you have to do is wait impatiently for your new possession to turn up.

All in good time.


Founded in 1793, Bonhams is one of the most instantly recognisable auction houses in the world.

After its merger with Phillips Son & Neale in 2001, its scope greatly expanded and now handles works of fine art and antiques in more than 60 specialist collecting areas.

It has market leadership in key areas of the art market, including arms and armour, European ceramics, watches and clocks and Japanese art and describes the last decade as one of the “most dramatic and fast-growing in its history”.

As the company itself notes, Christie’s is “a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise”.

Since 1766, the auction house has consistently delivered some of the most important sales in art history, and continues to achieve unprecedented results up to this very day.

In the first half of 2012 for example, it totalled some $3.5 billion (approximately £2.2 billion) in sales, which was a record-breaking moment. All of this against global economic malaise makes this achievement all the more special.


Selling works of art and objects of desire since 1744, Sotheby’s has kept relevant throughout the ages with its shrewd insight into market activity.

The international auction house is well-respected and accordingly has been entrusted with putting under the hammer many of the world’s treasures, including Napoleon’s St Helena Library and Pablo Picasso’s Garçon à la Pipe, Bacon.

Never one to stay static, Sotheby’s has been leading the way in many areas, including expanding into non-traditional markets like the former Soviet Union and Hong Kong.

Phillips de Pury & Company

Conceived in 1796, Phillips de Pury is another global powerhouse in fine art, with offices dotted about the world (including London, Berlin, Geneva, Milan, Paris and Munich).

Although it has embraced most works of art, it tends to focus on contemporary art, photography, editions, design and jewellery, and thus it exudes a much more modern feel than other auction houses.

It recently made the headlines when it sold Jean-Michel Basquiat’s untitled 1981 masterpiece for $16.3 million (£10.4 million), a record for the late expressionist painter.

The world’s top fine art auction houses
Tagged on: