The Glossary of Art Auctions


    The lexicon to discover and participate in art auctions

    A short and effective glossary on the terms used by the auction houses to participate in the sale of works of art and to help you make your offer as a true expert.

    Absentee Bid – Bid method adopted by those who cannot or do not want to participate in an auction. Offers can be made in absentia by filling in and submitting a special form, usually also online.

    Online Auction – The participation and purchase of works of art on the digital platforms of the auction houses is a business in continuous growth, which has undergone a surge in use with the imposition of the lockdown for the Coronavirus emergency.

    Authentic The Certificate of Authenticity of the work of art, which contains the main information on the work present among the lots of the auction and which is delivered to the buyer at the time of sale.

    Auctioneer – A professional qualified who presides over the auction, starts the sale of a lot and keeps up with the raises by the buyers present in the saleroom, on the phone or online until the award sanctioned by the blow of a gavel. In addition, auctioneers can bid on behalf of participants who are absent, but registered in its Register. When a work is sold, the auctioneer decrees the end of the auction and announces the sale.

    Bid – Relaunch of the offer.

    Buyer’s Premium – It is the purchase commission which is up to the auction house and which must be added to the hammer price, or the award prize beaten by the Auctioneer.

    Auction Catalog – It is the volume that collects all the information and details of the lots offered in the auction, reporting information on the works, such as the technique, the presence of the signature, the origin, the eventual registration of the work in the Artist Archive, the exhibitions and publications, together with the minimum and maximum estimates established and presented in the main currencies.

    Resale Right – (Droit de Suite) The Resale Right represents protection for the artist and his heirs up to 70 years after his death, applicable three years after the first sale of a work, the value of which must be equal to or greater than € 3,000 and paid by the seller. 

    Expertise Expert’s expert opinion on a work of art, often requested in case of doubts of authenticity or attribution.

    Pre-sale exhibition – Display of the lots for sale by the auction house in the days preceding the auction, which thus allows direct analysis by possible buyers. The exhibitions are free and open to all.

    Hammer Price – It is the hammer price with which the work was beaten by the Auctioneer.

    Unsold– When a work is not awarded by anyone because the offers do not reach the minimum estimate.

    Lot – This is the name of the individual works presented in the auction and accompanied by a number.

    Offer –The amount that a potential buyer is willing to pay to buy a lot. The offer can be made by telephone, in writing or online.

    Reserve price – Confidential data between the seller and the auction house, not less than the minimum estimate and which can sometimes coincide, always with the aim of exceeding it at auction.

    Salesroom – Room where the auction takes place, in which the auctioneer who climbed the rostrum or podium meets, which is in front of the public of potential buyers, while on the sides of the room there are some professionals of the auction house in charge of receiving telephone bids and relaunching for your client.

    Estimate – The price range that is considered for a given lot, between a minimum award figure and a maximum figure that can be exceeded by the offers. In the case of works of art, the estimate is made by considering a series of parameters, such as the type of work, the author, the origin, the state of conservation, the historical importance and the dimensions.

    And you, are you ready to participate in an auction of works of art?

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