How To Sell Your Works To An Auction House

    Discover the three phases of the main international Auction Houses in order to propose your artwork at an auction…

    Debt, Divorce, Death: these are the three great D that move the art market!

    Variables that cause owners of artworks to choose auction houses to finalise a safe and immediate sale.

    On the background of the will to sell there is the hidden (but not too much) idea of the “amazing” discovery of a crust that becomes a masterpiece with many zeros.

    A condition that sometimes (very rarely) occurs.

    Going beyond the psychological components or unusual situations, after having discovered how the auction are organised, we have gathered, from the most important international auction houses including Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonhams, Phillips and the italian Il Ponte, the 3 main steps to follow when proposing a work of art for an auction:

    1. Request an evaluation

    [emaillocker id=4040] Auction houses have a team of experts for the free evaluation of a limited quantity of art objects, provided that you are able to give them, with the photographic documentation, as much useful information as possible: dimensions, technique, acquisition details answering the questions of when and how you got hold of the work (like how and when you to took possession of the artwork), without forgetting any certificates of authenticity and purchase documents.

    The more information you have of a work of art, the more likely you are to receive a correct estimate of its value.

    1. Sign the “Sale Mandate”

    When the auction house experts establish that one or more works of art have all the prerogatives to be auctioned, it is necessary to accept and sign the “Sale Mandate”, which confers the assignment(Afor the auction according to the terms established between the owner and the auction house.

    The document includes: the description of the object, the transport,  insurance details, information on the commission to be paid to the auction house in the event of sale, the so-called “buyer premium”, and the reserve price, i.e. the minimum price at which you are willing to sell.

    The “reserve” is confidential, does not coincide with the minimum estimate of the object, and if it is not reached during the auction, determines the unsold amount of the lot.

    Moreover, among the costs to be charged to the owner there is the “resale right” for sales made in the Italian territory

    1. Ship the artwork to the auction house for the sale

    The experts of the auction house determine the best place and the time to sell the good, which must be shipped by the owner using the transport services of choice or made available by the auction house.

    The art object is photographed, catalogued with a lot number and displayed at one or more auction house locations depending on its importance, in order to catalyse some interest around it.

    The day of the auction sale you can follow the negotiation in the hall or online, and if completed successfully, the price is paid 35 days after the auction.

    Nothing is left to chance.

    However, it is good to consider some exceptions:

    – Private sale:

    After the evaluation, it is possible that the team of experts of the auction house advises to proceed with a private sale; this choice, always with the support of the auction house according to specific contractual conditions established on a case-by-case basis, may be less immediate and is determined by a number of factors, including the owner’s sales expectations, the desire to maintain total anonymity in relation to the work and the possibility of attracting the attention of a few around a single object of art.

    Withdrawn lot:

    For personal reasons, the owner can decide to withdraw the work a few days from the auction; then the “sale mandate” is revoked. The auction house, however, charges some costs to the owner, as agreed and envisaged in the terms and conditions of the signed document.

    Unsold lot:

    One of the risks involved, despite all the necessary precautions. If during the auction there are no offers for the lot or if they do not reach the reserve price, the lot is declared unsold by the auctioneer.

    An unsold work could automatically become “burnt” on the market, since having not found a buyer, its economic value is negatively affected.

    Whatever the motivation that leads you to auctioning works of art, the best choice is always to rely on the team of experts of the auction houses. Only they will know how to create a real frenzy for the awarding of your lots.

    Here is the list of pages dedicated to the proposal of works of art of the selected Auction Houses:

    Other auction houses that may interest you…


    Are you ready to sell your artwork at an auction?


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