London Auction Houses Tour: Decoding the Art Market

Get to grips with London’s historic and contemporary role in art collecting
From US$527 privately
Book a Tour
Tour Details
3 hours
Product Type
  • White Cube Gallery
  • Bonhams
  • Christie's
  • Royal Academy of Arts
  • Fine Art Society
Photos & Highlights
  • Come face-to-face with London's illustrious art market and its shaping of today's art collection industry
  • Led by an auction house insider
Select a date
Tour Description
For centuries, London has been the center of the art market. Names like Christie's, Sotheby’s, and Bonhams are synonymous with the luxury art trade today, but where does this tradition come from? On this walk, we'll learn about the history of the auction houses, how art dealers function, and how the two interrelate.

Our walk will start in Mayfair, at the heart of this multi-billion-dollar global business. Our course through the area will depend very much on current exhibitions and the interests of the group and will include major auction houses as well as smaller galleries. 
Meet Your Expert
Typically, we begin this art tour of London with a basic background on the British passion for collecting and London's historical and contemporary role in the luxury market. Next, we'll introduce the history of Phillips and Bonhams, the auctioneers, and visit some of Bonhams salesrooms to consider the current exhibition. Here, we may discuss how prices are determined and the the role of the auctioneer in the success of a sale.

 Our discussion will take us to the Fine Art Society and the Royal Academy, where we'll engage in a discussion on the key players of the art world from the 18th century until today. We will contemplate the arbiters of style and fashion -from Beau Brummell to Saatchi and Jay Jopling- and how they can make or break the fortune of an artist.

Our walk will conclude with a visit to two of London's art institutions: Christie's and the White Cube Gallery. We'll discuss contemporary art and how a gallery like White Cube has contributed to Damien Hirst's becoming one of the highest-earning artists in the world.
At the end of our time together, we'll have a better understanding of how London’s art world functions, exploring the various ways in which art and antiques are bought and sold. We will also get the chance to visit some of the city’s most prestigious commercial galleries and auction houses, and see some important artworks and objects rarely on public view. This walk is a good complement to our British Museum and Tate Modern tour
Where You'll Start
(4.97) 24 Reviews

Reviews can only be left by Context customers after they have completed a tour. For more information about our reviews, please see our FAQ.

Alan was terrific. We learned so much ranging from the history of the art market (including auction houses, galleries, and sellers), the neighborhood of SoHo, and the current art market.
This was by far one of the best tours that we have experienced in all of our travels. I purchased this tour as a Christmas gift for my husband knowing that he's just started entering the world of online art auctions and has a deep appreciation for art in general. He was so very excited when I told him the outline of the tour but it wasn't until we went on the tour that we both realized the outline was just the tip of the iceberg. Alan, our tour guide, provided exclusive access to auction houses that we either would not know how to approach on our own, or simply would not have had the resources or connections to do so. Since Alan is so knowledgeable about art history, he was able to give in depth details and analysis about the artists and collections that we were seeing at the auction houses we visited. He also gave us extensive historical details about each auction house and how they came into existence, as well as their positions in the world of auctioneering now. Beyond that, Alan provided commentary about London's Mayfair district where the majority of auction houses are located, an area that my husband and I had never explored before and can now appreciate. We will definitely book another tour in the future because Alan created such a rich experience for us!
This was a phenomenal tour! Alan was great and had a depth of knowledge on the topic that was impressive! The tour will vary based on what the auction houses have for auction.