Next month in London, Sotheby’s will hold an exceptional single-owner sale of pieces accrued by an anonymous collector over the course of two decades. It is expected to bring in around £4 million ($4.8 million). In a statement, the collector discussed the genesis for his collecting.
“I started this collection and realized that if I really spent time on it and was selective in my choices, I might be able to put together something significant and unique,” he said. “Two decades on, I think the collection is at that point where it is indeed unique.”
His collection consists entirely of bottles of whiskey—“the most valuable collection of whiskey ever to be offered at auction,” according to Sotheby’s. The blockbuster marketing of the winsome whiskey trove resonates with a growing pattern that has the art world’s two top houses moving into other collectible markets, from wine and liquor to historical artifacts and designer handbags.
Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s have also been offering a growing array of artifacts of historical importance. Both auction houses organized sales timed to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing: Christie’s “One Giant Leap” sale brought in a total of $907,000, while Sotheby’s offloaded what it claimed were the best surviving video recordings of the moon landing for $1.8 million. In June, Christie’s set a new world auction record for a guitar when it sold the collection of Pink Floyd member David Gilmour, bringing in a total of $21.5 million. Next month, it will sell a trumpet specially designed for Miles Davis.
Signaling its commitment to such sales, Christie’s re-hired consultant Nancy Valentino—a powerful figure in the entertainment industry who’d worked at the auction house from 1991 to 2003 and established its “Popular Arts” division. Expect this fall’s auction calendar to feature an eclectic array of offerings, with bottles of whiskey and musical interludes punctuating the marquee sales of modern and contemporary art.