Are Auction Houses Very Competitive?

Auction houses have a reputation as being the domains of the rich and aristocratic, but that's not to say they lack a sense of humor. A perfect example took place in 2005 between two of the world's most-esteemed auctioneers, Sotheby's and Christie's. Vying for a $20 million art collection being sold off by Maspro Denkoh Corporation, a major Japanese electronics manufacturer, representatives from Christie's and Sotheby's traveled to Tokyo to engage in a high stakes game of rock, paper, scissors. The game was the brainchild of Takashi Hashiyama, the president of Maspro, who said he couldn't find a compelling reason to pick one over the other. "It probably looks strange to others,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “But I believe this is the best way to decide between two things which are equally good.” When it came time to play, the competitors wrote down their choices on paper rather than using their hands -- perhaps an action too crass for such esteemed institutions. Christie's came out on top, as its Tokyo office president chose scissors, literally cutting Sotheby's -- which chose paper -- out of the running. Afterward, a rep from Sotheby's acknowledged going into the game without a strategy, while Christie's apparently did some game theory research to gain the upper hand.

All about art auctions:

  • Auction houses have admitted to "planting" buyers to up the bids on art, in order to ensure minimum sales amounts.

  • The highest amount ever paid for a painting was $450.3 million USD (£342.1 million) for Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi in 2017.

  • The United States accounts for approximately 44% of sales in the $67.4 billion USD global fine art market. The United Kingdom has 21% of the market share, while China makes up 19% of sales, as of 2018.

More Info: Artsy

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