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.