There are a lot more Patek Philippes out there than Picassos.
There are also a lot more cars, diamonds, wine bottles, and handbags. “You don’t have the same sourcing and supply constraints in luxury that you do in fine art,” says Charles Stewart, chief executive officer of Sotheby’s. “We might be able to sell 10 Van Goghs in a season, but they don’t exist.” The luxury goods market, in other words, is scalable in a way that art isn’t. And Stewart, brought to Sotheby’s in 2020 by telecom billionaire Patrick Drahi soon after he took the auction house private, sees an opportunity. “Today, luxury is approximately a quarter of the business,” he says. “In five years, would it surprise me if the luxury business is twice as large? No, it would not.”