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Private sales grew 28% to $744.6m, a four-year high. Auction sales rose 8% to $4.6bn, led by a 29% increase in sales of Contemporary art and a 33% improvement in sales of Impressionist and Modern art, compared to the prior year.

Asian clients contributed $1.6bn of auction sales in the period.

The US-listed auction house said 23% of its lots sold online during the year, with buyers spending $180m, a 16% increase on the previous year. It held 36 online-only sales, which is more than double the previous year.

During 2017 sales in the $100,000-$1m price bracket accounted for 27% by value of all sales, up 9% on 2016.

Tad Smith, Sotheby’s CEO, said: “Three years ago we had a strategy to boost our sales within the middle market, which is defined as lots sold at prices between $25,000 and $1m.

“The middle market includes our crucially important day sale material… Helped by our strong online sales, superb management within the departments, and an improving art market, our day sale activity rebounded strongly in 2017.”


Smith has led the expansion of the company and since he became CEO it has bought artificial intelligence company Thread Genius, analytics firm Mei Moses and scientific analysis firm Orion Analytical.

Last month it bought Viyet, a website for interior design, vintage and antique furniture.

Profit, or adjusted net income, for Sotheby’s improved by 22% from $99.6m to $121.7m in 2017.

Rival Christie’s recently reported a 26% increase in 2017 global sales to £5.1bn, ahead of Sotheby’s £4bn but Christie’s does not reveal a profit figure.

Sotheby’s financial year in numbers

300 auctions

50,000 items offered

80% average selling rate (up 2%)

7% increase in first-time bidders

$110.5m for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (1982), the top lot of the year