How do art auctions work?

Art auctions can seem daunting, especially if you’re a first-time attendee. Even seasoned art buyers sometimes find themselves confused by the process. But it doesn’t have to be that way: auctions are an exciting and fun way to watch two parties vie for an item that truly captures your heart, and there’s nothing like the feeling of winning a bid on something you love. So let’s walk through what happens before, during, and after an art auction to get more familiar with the process.

Attend an auction preview.

If you’re looking to buy art, attending an auction preview is a great way to get a sense of the art for sale. You can see the pieces in person and get a sense of their quality. You’ll also be able to inspect each piece’s condition, ensuring it’s not damaged or otherwise not worth buying.

Register before the auction.

If you plan on attending a live auction, it’s essential to register before the bidding begins. The procedure varies depending on where you are buying your tickets and what type of event it is. You can do so online, by phone or in person at the venue. When you register for an art auction, you’ll need to bring identification and a credit card with which you will pay for your paddle (a small device used to bid).

Once registered as an attendee at an art auction, it’s time to get ready to buy!

Read the catalogue.

As the auctioneer rattles off bids and prices for each lot, you’ll be able to read about them in the catalogue. While this will include information about their estimated value, it’s also imperative to look at conditions. For example, if you’re bidding on an item that is damaged or flawed in some way, it could reduce its value significantly.

Know your budget.

It’s important to know your budget before the bidding begins. Then, when you’re outbid, you should ask yourself if you’re willing to spend that much money on a piece of art. If not, then don’t bid beyond what you feel comfortable paying.

It’s okay to walk away from an auction if the bidding gets too high for your liking, and there are other pieces at different auctions that interest you more than this.

Bid calmly and confidently at the auction.

You’ll be bidding against other people, which can be a little nerve-wracking. But you should bid confidently and calmly. Don’t worry about the other bidders—you don’t know what they have in mind for their bids, and you shouldn’t let that influence yours. If you’re thinking about a $500 painting, for example, don’t let someone else’s bid of $2,000 increase your price to $1,500 or $1,600 because they “wouldn’t pay anything less than that”. Just stick with your original plan: if the painting is worth you at $500, then it will still be worth it when the bidding reaches its peak, so don’t change your game plan just because someone else has entered into an auction frenzy.

Know how payment works.

  • Payment can be made in cash, credit card or by check. Although most auctions prefer that you pay by credit card, checks are accepted, and there is a fee to send one through the mail.
  • Wire transfers are another option for those who prefer to use their bank accounts for payment. Most banks charge around $15 to send money this way, so remember this when calculating your budget!
  • Be aware that it’s best practice in auctions not to leave before the end of bidding if you don’t know what will happen next at an auction house or gallery. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have with buying art online (or on the phone), they still require a binding contract between buyer and seller.


Hope this article has helped give you a clear overview of how the auction process works. So now, the next time you’re looking to buy or sell art, you’ll be ready to dive right in!

Also Read : Tom Corton

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