The Top 5 Auction Houses in the UK

The UK has so many auction houses across the country. From the West Country to the East Midlands, and from Cornwall to Cumbria (and even further North), there are lots of options to choose from.

Many people are surprised to learn that there are so many auction houses across the UK, it almost becomes a bit overwhelming trying to choose the right auction house for your needs. Here’s a list of the top 5 auction houses in the UK.

5. Lyon & Turnbull 

Lyon and Turnbull main saleroom

Locations in Edinburgh, London & Glasgow

Operating since 1826, Lyon & Turnbull are one of the longest established fine art and antiques auction houses in the United Kingdom. 

Approximately 45 auctions are held per annum, including specialist categories such as Scottish paintings, British & European paintings, Asian works of art, jewellery, silver, antiques, books, furniture and contemporary art and design. 

Lyon & Turnbull’s Departments Include:

  • 20th Century Sculpture
  • African & Oceanic Art
  • Antique Clocks & Timepieces
  • Antiquities
  • Arms & Armour
  • Asian Art
  • British & European Paintings
  • Coins, Medals & Banknotes
  • Contemporary & Post War Art
  • Design Since 1860
  • European Ceramics & Glass
  • Furniture
  • Islamic & Indian Art
  • Jacobite & Stuart Works of Art
  • Jewellery
  • Lalique
  • Marine Paintings
  • Modern British Art
  • Modern Design
  • Old Masters
  • Photography
  • Portraiture
  • Prints & Multiples
  • Rare Books, Manuscripts & Maps
  • Rugs & Carpets
  • Scientific Instruments
  • Scottish Applied Arts
  • Scottish Paintings & Sculpture
  • Scottish Silver & Accessories
  • Silver & Objects of Vertu
  • Sporting Art
  • Studio & Contemporary Ceramics
  • Tapestries & Textiles
  • Vintage Posters
  • Watches
  • Whisky & Wine
  • Works of Art & Sculpture

4. Phillips

Phillips saleroom with auction in progress

Located in London

Phillips is the destination for international collectors to buy and sell the world’s most important twentieth-century and contemporary works of art, design, jewels, watches, photographs and editions. By focusing specifically on the defining aesthetic movements of the last century, Phillips have set themselves apart as the most dynamic and forward-thinking auction house in the world. Our global presence, seasoned expertise and individualized client service lead collectors to seek our guidance on market trends and insights.

Phillips’ Departments Include:

  • 20th Century & Contemporary Art
  • Design
  • Editions
  • Jewels
  • Latin America
  • Photographs
  • Watches

3. Bonhams

Bonhams auction in progress

Locations in London and Edinburgh

Bonhams has a heritage and reputation for connoisseurship and bespoke service known throughout the world. Founded in London in 1793, they are the sole remaining international auction house that is privately owned and in British hands. Bonhams hold more than 400 specialist sales a year in 60 different categories at their flagship salerooms in London, New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong.

Bonhams is one of the world’s largest and most renowned auctioneers of fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewellery with their flagship London saleroom situated on prestigious New Bond Street in the heart of Mayfair.

Bonhams’ Departments Include:

2. Sotheby’s

Exterior of Sotheby's in London

Located in London

Since Samuel Baker founded Sotheby’s in London in 1744, the company has occupied only two primary locations—the Strand, where they were housed until 1917 and 34-35 New Bond Street, where they have been ever since.

Located in the heart of London’s Mayfair district, Sotheby’s auctions offer an extraordinary diversity of objects and works of art from Impressionist & Modern Art and Contemporary Art to Old Master Paintings, 19th Century European Art and Islamic Art, as well as Decorative Art from Porcelain and Silver to French & English Furniture amongst many others.

Sothebys’ Departments Include:

  • 19th Century European Paintings
  • 20th Century Design
  • Aboriginal Art
  • African & Oceanic Art
  • African Modern & Contemporary Art
  • American Art
  • American Furniture, Decorative Art & Folk Art
  • Ancient Sculpture and Works of Art
  • Automobiles | RM Sotheby’s
  • Books & Manuscripts
  • British Paintings 1550-1850
  • British Watercolours & Drawings 1550-1850
  • Canadian Art
  • Celebrated Collections
  • Chinese Paintings – Classical
  • Chinese Paintings – Modern
  • Chinese Works of Art
  • Clocks & Barometers
  • Coins and Medals
  • Contemporary Arab, Iranian & Turkish Art
  • Contemporary Art
  • Czech Art
  • Diamonds
  • Dutch & Belgian Paintings
  • English Furniture
  • European Ceramics & Glass
  • European Sculpture & Works of Art
  • French & Continental Furniture
  • German, Austrian & Central European Paintings
  • Greek Art
  • Handbags and Accessories
  • Impressionist & Modern Art
  • Indian & South Asian Modern & Contemporary Art
  • Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art
  • Irish Art
  • Islamic Art
  • Israeli & International Art
  • Italian Paintings
  • Japanese Art
  • Jewellery
  • Judaica
  • Latin American Art
  • Modern Art | Asia
  • Modern & Contemporary Southeast Asian Art
  • Modern British & Irish Art
  • Musical Instruments
  • NFT
  • Objects of Vertu
  • Old Master Drawings
  • Old Master Paintings
  • Orientalist Paintings
  • Photographs
  • Pre-Columbian Art
  • Prints
  • Rugs & Carpets
  • Russian Art
  • Scandinavian Paintings
  • Scottish Art
  • Silver
  • Sneakers, Sports Memorabilia & Modern Collectibles
  • Sotheby’s Concierge Auctions
  • Space Exploration
  • Spanish Paintings
  • Stamps
  • Swiss Art
  • Toys
  • Unique Collections
  • Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art
  • Watches
  • Whisky & Spirits
  • Wine

1. Christie’s

Saleroom at Christie's in London

Located in London

Christie’s, the world’s oldest fine art auctioneer, has sold fine art, furniture, jewelry and wine since James Christie conducted the first sale in London on 5 December 1766. Ever since Christie’s has continued to provide the perfect backdrop for the sales of the world’s finest collections and greatest works of art before their auction. Christie’s moved to its global headquarters at 8 King Street, St. James’s, in 1823, still its London headquarters today.

Christie’ Departments Include:

  • 19th Century European Art
  • African & Oceanic Art
  • Arms & Armour
  • Australian Art
  • Books & Manuscripts
  • Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art
  • Clocks, Marine Chronometers & Barometers
  • Design
  • Impressionist & Modern Art
  • Interiors
  • Islamic Art
  • Japanese Art
  • Jewellery
  • Maritime Pictures
  • Modern British & Irish Art
  • Old Master Drawings
  • Photographs
  • Portrait Miniatures
  • Post-War & Contemporary Art
  • Prints & Multiples
  • Private & Iconic Collections and Country House Sales
  • Rugs & Carpets
  • Russian Art
  • Silver & Objects of Vertu
  • Science & Natural History
  • Sporting Art
  • Topographical Pictures
  • Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art
  • Watches & Wristwatches
  • Wine & Spirits

The Dangers of Using an Auction House

While the above auction houses are a great way to purchase quality items, using auction houses to sell your valuable items won’t actually give you the full value of your items.

How come? 

Admittedly auction houses might be great for putting your item in front of a room of potential buyers, but what we must not forget is the various fees which are incurred. There’s a list of fees auction houses use to deduct from the value of your items, everything from seller’s fee to insurance, and once the VAT is applied, you easily lose up to 40% of the items value. 

So what’s the answer? Private buyers like us at Olympia Mayfair have international networks allowing auction house-like reach, but without the fees. Because of our contacts all over the globe we’re able to ensure you’re paid more than the auction house would have been able to pay.

We provide free valuations across the UK in the comfort of your home. Our clients all receive immediate payment and always the highest level of service. If you’d like to get a free initial guide price valuation feel free to fill in our form. We will assist you every step of the way.

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