Top art auction houses around the world

Beijing Poly International Auction

It may well be the new kid on the block, but that is a moot point. In a short amount of time, Beijing Poly International Auction has quickly become one of the most influential auction houses in the world, testament to the growing international interest in Eastern and Asian art since the turn of the century.

Founded in 2005, the institution now has over seven offices across the globe and salesrooms in both Beijing and Hong Kong. It promises collectors “genuine, exquisite and rare” works of art and is turning its attention to young Chinese artists and Chinese oil paintings executed before 1978.


One of the oldest auctioneers in the world, Bonhams has developed a sophisticated and sweeping roster of art auctions to rival that of Christie’s and Sotheby’s in terms of art sales. Its major salesrooms are based in London, New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.

Founded in London in 1793, Bonhams has evolved into a multidisciplinary institution, specialising in a wide range of areas, such as Japanese art. It has set records in Russian work (secured £7.9 million for Nicholas Roerich), South African paintings (realised £3 million for Irma Stern) and Old Masters (a Jean-Honore Fragonard portrait of François-Henri duc d’Harcourt went for £17.1 million).


Along with Sotheby’s, Christie’s is one of the most recognisable names in the world of fine art, a giant auctioneer with a solid reputation and renown for cultivating brilliant clusters of work across various movements. It is the largest institution of its kind and an extremely powerful voice in art.

Founded in 1766, it now offers 450 sales annually in over 80 categories and has, as of late, been experiencing an extraordinary period of trading. Its most recent sale of post-war and contemporary art saw it take home $745 million (approximately £444 million) in just one evening.


Still known by its former full name of Philips de Pury & Company – no longer the case with Simon de Pury everdeparting as chairman last year – Phillips, while very successful, has had a rocky few years as of late. That is thankfully no longer the case and the future looks bright.

As it acknowledges, the market for contemporary art has never been stronger and the auction house, which was founded in 1796, holds 16 successful auctions every year in this category. It has “realised breakout results for many mid-career artists”, including Urs Fischer, Kelley Walker, Wade Guyton and Beatriz Milhazes.


As mentioned above, Sotheby’s, along with Christie’s, is a goliath in the world of art auctions, equally delivering one record-breaking sale after another. It is also a name that carries with it an authority unparalleled across the globe, which is built on a long history of success and innovation.

Founded in 1744, the auction house describes itself as an “innovative global art business serving the most discerning clients”, which it achieves across 90 locations in 40 different countries and eight salesrooms internationally. One of its recent highlights was the 2012 sale of Abstraktes Bild by Gerhard Richter, a record for a living artist.

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