Sotheby’s extends its global reach with a new private sales branch, S|2, opening in London next month. The inaugural show, “Joseph Beuys Revealed” (Oct. 10-Nov. 15) will feature the German artist’s early work, spanning from 1947 to 1966, with artwork primarily coming from Galerie Alfred Schmela in Dusseldorf. Located in London’s posh Mayfair neighborhood, the new gallery was designed by London-based David Kohn Architects and is the first permanent S|2 branch outside of New York, although Sotheby’s has hosted popup selling exhibitions in Los Angeles and Hong Kong. S|2 opened its first gallery in 2011 on the second floor of Sotheby’s Upper East Side Manhattan building.
S|2 London illustrates the recent maneuvering by large auction houses into private sales, traditionally the territory of gallery-based art dealers. Revenue from these sales is on the rise: in 2005, Sotheby’s income in the area totaled just $271.9 million. In 2012, that figure had grown to $906.5 million—an 11 percent increase over the previous year—and in the first half of 2013, private sales had brought $560.8 million, a 9% rise over the same period from 2012.
In 2012, The New York Times reported that private sales were the fastest-growing part of the auction business. Auction house experts have the benefit of information compiled through their public sales on prospective buyers and what might be on their shopping list.
Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s chairman of contemporary art, Europe, said in a press release, “Sotheby’s is much more than an auction house: it is now a multi-channel art business . . . In response to the growing demand from our clients to transact continuously—not just in the traditional sales seasons—we plan to host five selling exhibitions per year.”