On 15th October 1958, Sotheby’s mounted a spectacular evening auction featuring the seven most important Impressionist paintings from the collection of the late Jakob Goldschmidt. It took Peter Wilson, Sotheby’s chairman, the auctioneer that night, exactly twenty-one minutes to sell those seven paintings for a total of £781,000. That total broke all previous records for a single event auction. This high-profile sale marked the beginning of a new era in art auctions. In her talk Alycen Mitchell discusses the early Impressionist auctions before and after the Goldschmidt auction. She explores the Goldschmidt auction’s contribution to Sotheby’s growing lead in the global auction market and assesses its legacy.
Dr Alycen Mitchell studied for her PhD at Queen Mary, University of London where she is an Honorary Research Fellow and lecturer in the School of History. Her thesis charts Sotheby’s and Christie’s rise to international market pre-eminence following World War II. She originally worked in the antiques business and has a long track record of writing about art and design. Her research on the relationship between George Romney's critical reputation and the art market led to an article (co-authored with Barbara Pezzini) published in The Burlington Magazine(July 2015). She spoke at the ‘Creating Market, Collecting Art’ Conference (July 2016) organised by Christie’s Education in London. She presented papers at the ‘Researching Art Market Practices from Past to Present and Tools for the Future’ Workshop (November 2019) at Accademia Nazionale di San Luca in Rome and at a ‘Collecting and Display’ seminar (February 2020) at the Institute of Historical Research.