Sotheby's in London.

It includes items sold by the firm as well as exhibition space for dealers and artists to sell to the public, with dealer Adrian Sassoon the first occupier (see Dealers’ Diary page 32).

Sotheby’s said the new space is “dedicated to showcasing the finest assortment of art, design and luxury items, all available for direct purchase”.

For the past few years it ran the Mayfair gallery space S2 for art exhibitions. This closed in July.

Move to retail

All the large auction houses have placed an increased emphasis on fixed price sales across the past decade (private sales at Sotheby’s reached $1bn in both 2018 and 2019). The relative speed and privacy of this type of transaction can appeal to some clients, while the auctioneers argue retail selling is better suited to some types of object.

Sotheby’s and Christie’s both sell jewellery online as retailers and last month Phillips opened Flawless, an online shop offering “exceptional jewels for immediate purchase”.

The unusual circumstances of 2020 have encouraged further initiatives. During the summer, Long Island, New York, was a popular location for auction houses to trial physical shops. Phillips and Sotheby’s both opened stores in the Hamptons while Christie’s opened a temporary gallery at the Parrish Art Museum.

In the first four months of 2020, before the full impact of Covid-19, Sotheby’s reported private sales transactions were up 18% year on year. Christie’s said in June that since March private sales had grown by 113% compared to the same period the previous year.