Lempertz is one of the leading auction houses in Europe and the eldest in family posession. The history of the company reaches back to 1798, when Johann Matthias Heberle established the „Antiquargeschäft mit Auktionsanstalt (Antiquarian Book Shop including Auctions)" that held important auctions of rare books and art works. After the death of the founder in 1840, his employee Heinrich Lempertz, at that time 24 years old, took over the company that was than renamed „J. M. Heberle (H. Lempertz)“
On 5 September 1844, the administration of the City of Cologne granted the concession to establish a branch in Bonn that was managed by Mathias Lempertz, brother of Heinrich Lempertz. On 18 November 1844, the first Lempertz auction was held in Bonn. From April 1845 Lempertz resided in a house in Fürstenstrasse 2 in which the widow of Friedrich Schiller had died in 1826. The auction of the important library of August Wilhelm Schlegel in 1845 established the company´s reputation, followed by the auction of the estates of E. M. Arndt (1860) and B. Hundshagen (1867) with a manuscript of the Nibelungen from the early 15th Century that was acquired by the Royal Library in Berlin.
In 1875 Peter Hanstein, an employee of Mathias Lempertz, buys the respected firm and gradually moves the auction business to Cologne. In 1918 the building at Neumarkt is purchased. The classicist building is destroyed by bombs in 1943, like most of Cologne’s inner city. After the monetary reform, Lempertz succeeds once more in establishing itself as the leading German art and auction house. A visible sign of this is the building at Neumarkt, completed in 1952, listed today in the Register of Historic Buildings. The Roman-Germanic Museum and the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum organize their first exhibitions here between 1953-1957. In 1965 the Gallery Lempertz Contempora is founded, an exhibition forum for contemporary art. In 1984 Lempertz complements its range by buying into the antique book store Venator. The name is changed to Venator & Hanstein.
Since the beginning of 2000, Kunsthaus Lempertz is the only German auction house to be part of the renowned International Auctioneers group (IA), a group that unites eight independent leading auction houses from eight countries.
Auctions of books and graphic art mark the beginning. During the second half of the 19th century more and more paintings of old masters as well as decorative art are being auctioned. The first important collections begin to come to Lempertz for auction. The firm's reputation grows continuously. Soon Lempertz is one of the leading auction houses in Germany. Lempertz is the first European auction house, in 1908, to hold auctions of Asian art. Since 1958 separate auctions of modern art take place. In 1989 Lempertz becomes the first German auction house to hold independent auctions of contemporary art as well as photography and photographic art, positioning themselves as pioneers. Lempertz is also the only German auction house holding auctions abroad: since 1992 the Brussels branch holds auctions of African and Oceanic art. Approximately 18 auctions a year are being held at Lempertz in Cologne, accompanied by lavishly illustrated catalogues and previews one week prior to each auction. In addition to the spring and autumn auctions consisting of old masters, decorative arts, modern and contemporary art, photography and Asian art, there are two auctions of antiquarian books and prints, and the African and Oceanic Art sale in our Brussels branch in spring.
In 1965 the first representative office abroad is opened in New York. In the meantime, there are representatives in Zurich, and in São Paulo. In 1985 a branch in Brussels was reopened that organizes the preparation and execution of auctions (African and Oceanic Art) as well as the previews of auctions taking place in Cologne. In Germany, Lempertz has branches in Berlin and Munich both with regular auction previews. The Berlin branch also shows exhibitions on their own premises and holds the Berlin sale. Our representatives and experts at the Cologne headquarters are available for consultation and are happy to assist you regarding consignments without obligation.
Competent experts with profound knowledge of the art market produce richly illustrated catalogues of museum quality. Our long-standing experience and knowledge of the art market benefits our consignors and customers. Our competence, expertise, and experience acquired in over 150 years of contact with works of art and international markets have led to a multitude of national and international record-breaking prices. Numerous paintings, sculptures, and decorative art objects have been acquired by museums and private collectors throughout the world, and belong to the core of these collections ever since.