The news that came at the close of 2019 might have come as no surprise to industry insiders, but the announcement that Sotheby’s Australia will no longer exist as a trading name from 31 December is a turning point for the Australian market. With the demise of Sotheby’s Australia, so ends fifty years of history.
The evolution of Sotheby’s Australia to Smith & Singer is largely symbolic. For ten years, Sotheby’s has been operating here under a licence. Sotheby’s International and its counterpart, Christie’s, departed our shores many years ago for the more fertile commercial grounds of Asia. For the auction behemoths, the Australian art auction market was insignificant; a single painting sold at one of their major London or New York sales can equate to the entire turnover for the Australian auction market.