In a recent Sotheby’s auction, a Patek Philippe gold watch netted a staggering $21.3 million, becoming the most expensive watch ever sold. High-end auction houses — particularly the largest two in the world, Sotheby’s and Christie’s — have always been known for their astronomical prices, but lately something seems to have hit a tipping point. Sotheby’s sold a record-setting $422 million worth of art in its November Impressionist and Modern sale, including a $101 million Giacometti sculpture. The enormous numbers seem to put auction houses within the reach only of the extremely wealthy.
“We’re talking about a small circle of very wealthy people and their courtiers,” says Hrag Vartanian, co-founder of the contemporary art website Hyperallergic.com. Major auction, he adds, see little to gain from inclusiveness.
But outside of these high-profile sales, auctions actually exist at all price points. It’s possible to find everything from affordable luxury watches to vintage magician memorabilia and accessible contemporary art at smaller, independent auction houses across the world as well as online. Here are 11 to check out, for that next big apartment purchase or the perfectly unique holiday gift.
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