Posts Tagged ‘shopping


Buying Art at Auction Instead of a Gallery

Auctions are typically a wonderful way to access artworks from private and institutional collections that have a known provenance. However, not all auctions and art auctioneers are created equal, and there are many factors that make purchasing art at auction different from buying out of a commercial gallery.

The Ability to Plan

With commercial galleries and even at art fairs, buyers may not know in advance what the dealer has available or what additional inventory he or she may have. An auction, on the other hand, allows purchasers to plan and research potential pieces of interest in advance. Art auctioneers publish catalogs of upcoming sales and the items included, so that potential buyers will be able to make a plan before attending the sale.

The Buyer’s Premium

Depending on the auction platform, buyers will likely be responsible for paying an additional fee—or buyer’s premium—that will be a percentage of the final hammer price. Sometimes these amounts are set percentages while other houses may cap premiums at a certain amount, particularly when handling high value sales.

A Central Marketplace

Particularly in art, auctions can serve as a transparent marketplace for purchasers. While commercial galleries may never release sales figures, auction houses will typically post the information publicly following a sale.

At the same time, it can be impossible to figure out what budgets a gallery caters to without knowing each artist’s individual market, so an auction may allow purchasers of all budgets access to a range of works across different styles.

Research Resources

Since art auctioneers publish catalogs before sales, potential buyers have the opportunity to do in-depth research on the artists or work they are interested in. This may mean accessing an online database to see past sales history, or talking with professionals in the art field about the specifics of a piece.

Furthermore, works at auction will typically come with appraisals and provenance details for each work. This allows purchasers both before and after a sale to know how long the work has been available, where it has been shown, and any prominent collections or institutions it has been part of.