Sandro Botticelli ‘Young Man Holding a Roundel’
Among the highlights of the year was the sale of this Sandro Botticelli ‘Young Man Holding a Roundel’. It sold at $80m (£58.4m) on January 28 or $92.2m including fees which is the highest price ever achieved for an Old Master at Sotheby’s.

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It said this is the strongest total in the company’s 277-year history and is a 46% jump on last year ($5bn).

It was achieved by auction sales of $6bn (with 20 sales still to go) and private sales of $1.3bn.

The auction house said 12 different categories notched up sales of works at more than $10m and more items sold for above $15m than in any other year.

It was a record year for Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art, with sales of $4.3bn across auction and private sales channels, and Old Masters took their highest yearly total in a decade.

A number of factors helped Sotheby’s to achieve its growth, including attracting new bidders, new locations and new technology.

Cy Twombly 'Untitled 2007'

Another highlight was The Macklowe Collection – 65 artworks including pieces by Alberto Giacometti, Andy Warhol and Cy Twombly (pictured). The collection took a premium-inclusive total of $676m - the most valuable single owner auction ever staged.

It said expansion of its web and mobile platforms and a shift to a “hybrid” livestream auction format increased the number of bidders at auction in the past year: since January 2021, 39% of buyers and 44% of bidders have been new to Sotheby’s.

More than 16.6m livestream views of its sales were recorded this year, with 4.2m followers across all social platforms and 13.2m unique visitors to its website, sothebys.com.

There were more than 200,000 bids placed online, which represented 92% of total bids, and online sales reached a record $800m.

Sotheby’s noted that its expansion into NFTs and the launch of Sotheby’s Metaverse (a dedicated NFT marketplace) attracted new audiences, with 78% of NFT bidders new to Sotheby’s and more than half of them under 40.

It also noted the growth in its luxury division with sales of watches, wine and spirits, design, books and the luxury accessories and collectables categories achieving a record. Annual auction totals here reached $1bn (up 78% on 2020).

Sotheby’s in numbers (for 2021 so far):

  • Total sales: $7.3bn (£5.5bn) up 46% on the previous year
  • Auction sales: $6bn (with 20 sales still to go)
  • Private sales: $1.3bn
  • Online-only sales: $800m
  • Views of livestreamed auctions: 16.6m