The grand palace of auction houses: Vienna's Dorotheum
By Horst Heinz Grimm Nov 22, 2011, 3:06 GMT
Vienna - Pawnshops are not usually high on the sightseeing lists of a city. But they are in Vienna.
The Dorotheum, a four-storied neo-classical palace in historical downtown Vienna, is definitely worth a visit - especially if you are not really in need of credit. Established in 1707 by Emperor Joseph I, the Dorotheum is considered one of the leading auction houses in the world.
A spacious staircase leads to the exhibition and auction halls. 'The Dorotheum has more than 40 sections,' including design, tribal art, antique rugs, coins and medals, historical instruments and much more, says spokeswoman Doris Krumpl.
The best-selling sections, according to Krumpl, are the paintings from old masters, 19th century, modern and contemporary art as well as historical silver and furniture.
Visitors can walk around the Dorotheum for hours, just like a museum. Those interested in an exhibited item do not have to wait until the next auction.
'You can buy it directly here and bring it home with you,' says German collector Hagen Walters, who goes to Vienna regularly. This time he found candlesticks and lamps. 'We also ship you the goods on our own costs,' says Gerti, a sales woman.
Some rooms seem like a used furniture shop. Seats in 1920s and 1930s styles stand next to massive baroque cabinets, which would not fit in any modern apartment. There are chairs lined up for metres across the room and various tables - for the dining room, workroom or kitchen - from various decades from the past century.
Women are especially attracted to the halls on the second floor. Dozens of glass cases hold jewellery, ranging from fashionable rings to precious jewellery. All of these items can be purchased and brought home immediately. The department calls itself 'Austria's biggest jeweller' - and even brings its own new creations to the market.
There are auctions nearly daily in one of the 13 halls. But not all of them are as exciting as in April 2010, when a 1633 painting by the Flemish painter Frans Francken got a world record price of more than 7 million euro (9.6 million dollars).
'The auctions are public and onlookers are warmly welcome,' says Krumpl. 'Taking part in the auctions would make us even happier.'
The Dorotheer monastery, which once stood here, gave the building its name. The Dorotheum itself has long become a synonym for a pawnshop in Vienna. Locals know that bargains can be found in these pawnshops - especially where there are few tourists.
The Dorotheum has 14 locations in Vienna and numerous more in other provinces, dealing with the daily, discreet business of selling high value goods.
The Dorotheum would not be a Viennese institution if it did not include a place for tired on-lookers and shoppers as there is a coffee house on the second floor.