How to buy art at auction

How to buy art at auction
February 19, 2014 Comments Off on How to buy art at auction Business Pandora Kornfeld

There comes a time in every art lover’s life when observing a work of art no longer cuts it. There is a want for more. This isn’t to say aficionados reach a plateau and find that they have tired of enjoying works of art as a viewer and as a critic. Far from it; this never diminishes. All that changes is a desire to collect. Ownership is a powerful thing.


For many, buying at auction is where it will begin. While the major players, like Sotheby’s and Christie’s often deal with seminal works that come with impressive estimates, this isn’t the rule. You can easily acquire reasonably priced works here.

Also understand that auctions always attempt to paint a fair a picture of the real worth of a work. This is achieved through a lot of negotiation, between, for example, auction employees, art dealers and the owners.

Various factors influence a price, including the artist in question, the movement it belongs to, its provenance, the state of the market and whether it is part of the current discourse.

Value is perhaps the most pertinent, important and contentious matter of all, which is why it can be challenging at first to get your head around all the variables that ultimately generate a price. It then pays, quite literally, to spend time learning as much as you can.


Research is unquestionably important. If you are completely new to the game, then it is best practice to hold off making any acquisitions until you have learnt the basics about the auction process and the types of work that you are most interested in.

This will help refine your judgement. The more you know, the more authority you have, and thus, the likelihood of you securing a very good work of art for a remarkable price increases.

Key tips emerge, such as buying because you enjoy it. Take heed from Judith Nelson, founder and director of the White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney, Australia. The 67-year-old has built up a remarkable collection, all of it dictated by what has caught her eye. Sometimes, it is just about the love.

Other advice includes seeking advice as often as you can; never accepting substandard works; checking out provenance and, where possible, seeing the desired work of art in person. With the latter, you will be able to gauge the condition much more effectively. The scrutiny of your eyes is a valuable asset.


You’ve done your homework, sought counsel from art experts – a contacts book is most useful when it comes to buying works – and attended an actual auction. You’ve had a scout of your competition and feel resolute in your ability to secure what you have come for.

There will be surprises, an unknown investor nodding yes into a phone, surprise interest from collectors not traditionally keen on such works, but you persevere knowing that, no matter what, you are the most appropriate buyer and all that hard work you’ve put in will not go to waste.

Sold! It’s yours; you have your very own masterpiece. What now but to take it home to enjoy, only you’ve forgotten one key thing: to book in some expert fine art removal services.

It is vital that experts be hired to transport your work of art, as they will ensure that it is appropriately packed and delivered in a way that greatly reduces the likelihood of it getting damaged.

The last thing you want to do after all that investment is nonchalantly carry your new prized possession about. Any slight dent, scratch or tear not only ruins the aesthetic pleasure, but also the monetary value of it. That is simply not something you ever want to think about or have to deal with. Art is far too enjoyable for such scenarios.

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