Sotheby’s already has a big presence in Germany, with offices in Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Berlin. Soon, the auction house will grow its footprint in the country even more with a new headquarters in one of Germany’s major art hubs: Cologne.
This fall, Sotheby’s will inaugurate a new sale center located at the city’s recently renovated historic Palais Oppenheim, in the neighborhood of Bayenthal. It will become the auction house’s sixth selling location in Europe, alongside those in London, Paris, Geneva, Zurich, and Milan.
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Sebastian Fahey, Sotheby’s managing director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, told ARTnews that the expansion in Germany is intended to allow the house to continue tapping the country’s top collector base, which he described as “an important force,” for the auction house. Through the new venue, Sotheby’s is aiming to ultimately reach collectors in neighboring countries like Belgium and the Netherlands as well.
“It is high-time for the country to be transformed into a Sotheby’s selling center,” Franka Haiderer, Sotheby’s head of business development in Germany, said in a statement.
The Cologne location’s inaugural sale will be held in September, with works by artists such as Otto Piene, Markus Lüpertz, Rudolf Jahns, Adolf Fleischmann, and Walter Ströhe made available for bidding online as well as in person. In November, the house will auction works by emerging artists under the title “NOW.”
Sotheby’s has tapped Eva Donnerhack, a longtime Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art specialist, to serve as head of sales in Germany. Barbara Guarnieri and Joelle Romba will head its Cologne and Berlin offices, respectively. They will work alongside Bastienne Leuthe, who has been appointed as head of contemporary art in Germany.
Sotheby’s first established an office in Cologne in 1982. The German city is home to a wide-reaching network of dealers, as well as Art Cologne, one of the oldest art fairs in the world.
In 2020, Sotheby’s reported that 40 percent of its German bidders has never before transacted with the house, and that the number of German clients buying works from its online sales tripled in the past year. According to the 2021 UBS Global Art Market report, while Germany represents just 3 percent of the value share for global auction sales, its collectors accounted for half of the buyers at online art fairs. (It was second only to the U.S. in that regard.) The report also said that Germany accounts for 5 percent of the global share of billionaires, whose aggregate wealth saw an increase of 20 percent in 2020.
Sotheby’s is not the only auction house eyeing the region for further expansion. In November, Phillips announced it was looking to grow its footprint in the region, appointing a Munich-based contemporary art specialist, Tobias Sirtl, to focus on Germany.
With the new space in Cologne, Sotheby’s will be the only major auction house with a German sale center.