How to buy art on auction

Buying art at auction can be an exhilarating experience. The thrill of the chase, the tension of the bidding war, and the satisfaction of securing a coveted piece can be a heady mix. However, it can also be a daunting process, especially for first-time buyers. Here are some tips on how to navigate the world of art auctions and make smart purchases.

  1. Do Your Homework

Before you even set foot in an auction house or log onto an online auction site, it’s important to do your research. Familiarize yourself with the artists, periods, and styles you’re interested in. Read up on recent sales of similar works to get an idea of how much you might expect to pay.

  1. Set a Budget

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a bidding war and end up spending more than you intended. To avoid this, set a budget for yourself before the auction and stick to it. Remember to factor in additional costs such as buyer’s premium, taxes, and shipping.

  1. Attend Previews

Most auction houses hold previews in the days leading up to the auction. This is your chance to inspect the artworks up close and in person. Take this opportunity to ask the auction house staff questions about the provenance, condition, and estimated value of the pieces you’re interested in.

  1. Register in Advance

Whether you’re bidding in person, over the phone, or online, you’ll need to register with the auction house in advance. This usually involves providing some form of identification and possibly a bank reference. Make sure to do this well before the auction starts.

  1. Understand the Bidding Process

Bidding at auction can be fast-paced and confusing. Make sure you understand the process before you start. In a live auction, bids are usually made by raising a paddle or a hand. In an online auction, you’ll need to click a button to place a bid. Some auctions also allow for absentee bids, where you submit your maximum bid in advance and the auction house bids on your behalf.

  1. Keep Your Emotions in Check

It’s easy to get emotionally attached to a piece of art, but remember that this is a financial transaction. Don’t let your emotions drive up the price. If the bidding goes beyond your budget, be prepared to walk away.

  1. Consider Hiring a Professional

If you’re new to art auctions, it might be worth hiring an art advisor or consultant. They can guide you through the process, help you make informed decisions, and even bid on your behalf.

  1. After the Auction

If you’re the successful bidder, you’ll need to arrange payment and collection of the artwork. Most auction houses require payment within a certain timeframe, so be prepared to settle your account promptly.

Buying art at auction can be a complex process, but with some preparation and a cool head, it can also be a rewarding way to build your art collection. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a novice, the most important thing is to buy what you love. After all, you’ll be the one living with the art.