Wondering how art auctions really work? Artalistic gives you the run-down on the art world’s biggest and loudest stage - from the lead up to the sale to the moment the hammer comes down.

Breaking down how an art auction works

Over the last several years, there has been an increase in the number of artworks sold at auction.

How to participate in an art auction

There are no specific restrictions for participating in an auction, apart from the fact that you need to be of legal age. Auctions are public events; if you are curious about how an art auction works, you may attend one as a spectator. Before the auction, potential buyers are allowed to preview the pieces to check their condition and certificate of authenticity and or their provenance, which is provided by the auctioneer. If you wish to take make a bid, you have to register with the auctioneer by giving them your contact information. Each bidder is then given a bidder card – known as a paddle - with a number that is used to identify them.  

The auctioneer then opens the sale, traditionally by ringing a bell and giving a brief description of the item for sale. An opening price is put forth and participants then may compete with each other by making subsequently higher bids.

Finally, when no bidder is willing to offer more money, the auctioneer will close the bid by striking the hammer. The buyer making the highest bid gets the item.

An important tip about art auctions

Keep in mind that the price announced at the end of the sale, known as the hammer price, does not include the buyer's premium. Premium rates can differ depending on the auction house. The buyer is given an invoice after the auction and once it has been paid they can collect their items.

Do your research

It is critical to do a little homework before you register to bid. Make sure that you go over the online catalog of works, which is published by the auction house several weeks before the sale. Find out about the artist, the history of the piece you are interested in and other works by the same artists.

It can be hard to decide what is worth buying and what price you should cap your bid at. So, as with all investments, it is important to ask an art expert for help. On the day of the auction, don’t be afraid to ask the auctioneer questions like, “How did you decide on the starting price?” and “Are there a lot of bidders interested in this piece?”

Avoid getting carried away and overbidding; otherwise prices may go through the roof! Once you have mastered the art auction process, it can prove to be a great way to find works of art at low prices.

How do online art auctions work

Online art auctions are becoming increasingly popular. However you should make sure that the auction house is reliable. A majority of online art auctions allow you to watch the event on live stream and bid via your computer. Drouot is one of the largest auction houses known for offering this style of online auction.

How do art auctions work if you are an artist

Getting the right price for your work

Auctioning is an excellent way for a contemporary artist to get their work valued and sell it at a fair value. Experts in the field, such as Artalistic, will value your work for you, making the internet a great place to try and sell your art.

Selling your art at an auction is a good way to find its market value. Individuals who have little knowledge of the artistic sphere or who inherit paintings or sculptures that they are not interested in keeping often sell their pieces at auction to be sure that they are getting a fair market price.

Where to sell your art

The easiest way to sell your art is to contact an auctioneer. You can find one near you by searching on Google. 

If you have a valuable piece of art, we advise you to choose a reputable auction house. These are often located in large cities. You can also find out about the world’s top auction houses by clicking on this link.

These are the essential points to remember about art auctions. Artalistic is a great online resource for buying or selling art (paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, etc.). Our team of experts will help you appraise your art in order to sell it online for a fair price or help you find the perfect piece to purchase.