What To Expect From An Art Auction

The art world has become much more open and accessible in recent years – you can purchase art at art galleries, art fairs, through art advisory services, online, and of course, at art auctions.

Art auctions are an interactive, competitive way of purchasing art. Auction sales make up roughly 20% of annual art sales, making them a highly popular option for art collectors around the world.

However, if you’re a beginner, you may find art auctions intimidating if you’ve not conducted research beforehand. How do art auctions work, and what happens in an art auction? That’s what we’re going to explore in this blog post.

Read on to learn more about art auctions, including what to expect from an art auction. We’ll also be defining certain terms used in art auctions so you can enter an art auction with confidence.


What is An Art Auction?

Before we delve into the ins and outs of art auctions, let’s discuss the basics. An auction house is a place where property and objects are sold to the highest bidder. There are auction houses for a range of industries, from real estate to art.

At art auctions, you can purchase a variety of different artworks. Some art actions involve only luxury art and masterworks, whereas others may include art from blue-chip and red-chip artists.

An art auction is essentially a public event, where people from all backgrounds come together to bid on pieces of art. That being said, some auctions are exclusive and only a select few are able to participate.

The three major auction houses are Christie’s, Phillips and Sotheby’s – at these auction houses, you can purchase fine art and masterworks from the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso, and many more.


How Do Art Auctions Work?

Once you have arrived at the auction house, you will be given a brief preview of the products on sale at the auction.

The auctioneer will also explain the conditions of each piece. Read on to find out what to expect from an art auction, from registration to bidding.


Register With The Auctioneer

Once you have previewed the art on auction, you need to register to bid with the auctioneer. You’ll need to provide personal information such as your address, phone number, and proof of identity. Some auctions will require photographic ID such as your passport or driver’s licence.

Upon registration, you will be given a number card. This card allows you to be identified during the auction.


Listen to The Host

Next, the auction will begin in the auction room. You will hear the sound of a bell – this indicates the beginning of the auction. You’ll then listen to the host talk about the items available – the host will describe each item to you and the other bidders.


Bid on Pieces You Like

Now you’re getting to the fun part of art auctions – the bidding. The auctioneer will announce the minimum price, and the bidders will raise their paddles to call their bid. Each bid needs to be higher than the previous one – the auctioneer will discuss this beforehand.

The bidding ends when the final bidder makes their bid. The auctioneer’s hammer will come down, and the item will then belong to the final bidder.

You will be given a warning before the hammer goes down, giving you a chance to exceed the previous bid. If you are the highest bidder and win the item, you’ll pay what you offered (as well as additional costs such as buyer’s premium) and then take it home with you.


Online Art Auctions

Art auctions can also take place online. More people are deciding to attend online art auctions – but this, of course, has several drawbacks.

For example, you don’t get a ‘feel’ of the pieces – seeing art in person can be much more beneficial than viewing images of the auction lots online.


Art Auction Lingo To Learn

Although you may be familiar with many terms used in an art auction, some terms may be more difficult to understand. Below, we are going to outline the definitions of some terms you may hear in an art auction.

  • Appraisal – an evaluation of the market value of a piece of art. A valuations team will often compare a piece of art with similar works that have been recently sold. The appraisal will typically determine the presale auction estimate.
  • Bid Increment – the amount that each bid is increased by. Often, auctioneers will set the bid increment as 10% – meaning that each bid should be around 10% higher than the previous bid.
  • Fair warning – the warning given by the auctioneer that the hammer is about to come down. This gives attendees a final chance to increase their bids.
  • Hammer Price – the hammer price refers to the winning bid at an auction. The auctioneer’s hammer will fall to determine the sale price. The hammer price, however, does not include the buyer’s premium. The auctioneer’s hammer is also known as a ‘gavel’.
  • Paddle – when you attend an auction, you will be given a paddle. You raise the battle to place a bid. The auctioneer will record your paddle number if you win the auction.
  • Provenance – this applies to the art authentication process, referring to the chain of ownership since the piece of art was created. The provenance of a piece of art can influence its overall value.


Where Else Can I Buy Art?

Many people choose to invest in art they find at art fairs. Art fairs can include a wide range of art from both new and emerging artists as well as prominent industry names and blue-chip artists. Check out this blog to learn more about blue-chip art. 

Art galleries are a great place to purchase art. You can purchase art to add to your art collection at our very own Grove Gallery in London.

At Grove Gallery, we are home to an expert art advisory service. We understand that the art market isn’t always easy to navigate – especially if you are a beginner. This is why our team of art advisors can guide you through the process.

We can help you to find the right piece of art to buy, from the right artist, at the right time. We’ll also be on hand to help when it comes time to sell your art for profit. We can help you to generate roughly 8% to 12% profit from art investment on a yearly basis, increasing the chance of a successful investment from secondary art.

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