The “Hub Transformation” of Auction Houses: Sotheby’s and Christie’s Business Model Evolution in a Dynamic Art Market

Adriana Ferrari

Student thesis: Master thesis


The thesis has the aim to describe Sotheby’s and Christie’s business model evolution in the last decade, according to the market dynamics.
The first part presents a selection of relevant academic literature as a foundation for developing the theoretic analysis. The chapter consists of three main parts: Strategy Theory, Business Model Evolution, and Duopoly Theory.
As a second step, a description of the methodology follows: the work reports findings from an inductive, in-depth, longitudinal study of how the business models of Sotheby’s and Christie’s developed in the last decade.
An understanding of the market and its characteristics is a necessary requirement for the auction houses’ strategic comprehension and analysis. For these reasons, the collected data concern information about the art market’s competitive environment, the industry background of auction houses, and a description of the most recent strategies implemented by Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
Finally, the analysis chapter, connecting data and theory, demonstrates that the necessity to innovate in a market characterized by hyper-competition, new technologies and globalization, has pushed to a transformational approach of the houses’ business models. This strategic renewal has lead Sotheby’s and Christie’s to diversify their business, exploiting different market opportunities and becoming a “hub” for the art market. Moreover, the analysis also demonstrates how the companies’ strategies have evolved not just following the trajectory of the environment’s dynamics, but also in relation to each other, with evidences of interdependence and tactical interaction between the two auction houses.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages101
SupervisorsBjörn Preuss