At Sotheby’s in London they’re preparing for the Arts of the Islamic World and India sale. The galleries will soon be lined with manuscripts and paintings spanning 1,200 years — from rare Iznik pottery to richly ornamented silver — to go under the hammer next week. It has always been this way at the 277-year-old auction house — but there’s revolution in the air.
Upstairs in the boardroom, which is decorated with Damien Hirst’s bejewelled red butterfly paintings, Michael Bouhanna, one of the heads of Digital Art Sales, opens his laptop and takes me into Sotheby’s Metaverse. He walks me through a three-dimensional digital replica of the building we’re in. The buyers are digital representations of people, known as avatars, and the art is purely