1. The Scull Collection sale at Sotheby's in 1973 and 1986

Robert C. Scull, Ethel Scull and the masters of Pop art Image: Art Market Monitor Robert C. Scull, Ethel Scull and the masters of Pop art Image: Art Market Monitor

The auction market, as we know it today, can be traced back to the sale of the Scull Collection. Mr and Mrs Robert and Ethel Scull sold a large part of their collection at Sotheby's in 1973 and 1986, including works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist and a dozen other Pop art masters. The auctions were a spectacle as the market witnessed contemporary art selling for record prices. The sale shifted the market's focus to the importance of the relationship between collectors and artists. Jasper Johns' Target, 1961, sold for $125,000, in the 1973 sale, the same sale Andy Warhol’s 200 Dollar Bills, 1962, was sold. Warhol's work sold again at Sotheby's in 2009, setting a record for the second highest price paid for an Andy Warhol work ever at auction.

2. Picasso's Les femmes d'Alger (Version 'O') smashes all records at Christie's

2. Image: Christie's

Sales featuring Picasso works are never tame occasions, Christie's sale on 11th May last year was certainly no exception. Picasso’s Les femmes d'Alger (version O) sold for a staggering $179,365,000, making it the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

The record has yet to be broken, watch this space...

3. Piccasso becomes the first artist to sell for $100 million

Garçon à la Pipe at Sotheby's Image: 20minutes.fr Garçon à la Pipe at Sotheby's
Image: 20minutes.fr

11 years prior to Christie's sale, in 2004 at Sotheby's, Picasso became the first artist to reach the $100 million mark at auction. Garçon à la Pipe, sold for $104 million, a work Picasso created in 1905 at the age of 24.

4. Damien Hirst x Sotheby's 

Image: the Telegraph Image: the Telegraph

Since the noughties, Damien Hirst has dominated the British art scene. In September 2008, the YBA star was the first artist to put work directly into an auction rather than first selling through a dealer or a gallery. The 'Beautiful Inside My Head Forever' auction was held at Sotheby's - with the house wavering the seller's fees. 223 lots were sold at a grand total of $198 million, setting a new record for a single-artist auction.

5. Christie's three-day auction of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge's collection

Christie's tree days sale at Grand Palais. Paris. Image: Jacques Brinon/AP Christie's tree days sale at Grand Palais. Paris.
Image: Jacques Brinon/AP

Christie's three-day epic auction of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge's magnificent art and antiques collection saw more than a thousand bidders, 100 phone lines open and eight auctioneers working in shifts during the sale at Paris' Grand Palais. The sale realised £333 million in sales, the highest total ever for a private collection at auction. Seven new world records were set for individual artists, including Henri Matisse.

6. Christie's first online auction

5 Image: Christie’s

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Christie's first auction to take place entirely online was held in December 2011. Art, jewellery and vintage fashion from the collection of Hollywood's darling Elizabeth Taylor was sold totally online at what became most lucrative fashion & vintage auction ever. The sale saw seven new world records for gemstones and jewellery.

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