Sotheby’s today announced 2021 sales of $7.3 billion, the highest recorded since the auction house’s founding in 1744, The Art Newspaper reported. The amount represents a 68 percent increase over 2020 sales, which totaled $5 billion, and does not take into account the more than twenty sales still pending before year-end. The auction house credited its digital livestreaming format for the surge, noting that 92 percent of bids were received digitally. Also driving growth were new buyers: 39 percent of buyers and 44 percent of bidders were new to Sotheby’s. Buyers in Asia, where the art market is especially hot right now, were another factor, collectively making one third of all bids by value in global auctions.The news comes as auction house chief Patrick Drahi is said to be considering taking the entity public, as first reported by Bloomberg. The French telecom billionaire took the company private after purchasing it and its extant debt in 2019 for $3.7 billion. Market watchers have suggested that the company’s willingness to cater to younger buyers via online sales, NFTs, and auctions of non-fine-art items such as Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy 1 sneakers—which in April fetched $1.8 million—is behind its return to health.“Sotheby’s and auction houses have become tech platforms in a way,” Franck Prazan, a former managing director at Christie’s in France and now owner of the Applicat-Prazan galler, told Bloomberg. “Socially distanced sales have also opened up a new market to younger crowds, more open to tech.”Also named as being behind Sotheby’s recent success is Drahi’s draconian cost-cutting measures, as well as the house’s entry into unusual sales arenas, as exemplified by its Picasso sale at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.