The Ins and Outs of Selling Art at Auction

Everything you need to know to get started
Schmid Richard 1934 Yellow Roses Oil On Canvas 20 X 30 Inches

Richard Schmid (1934-2021), Yellow Roses, 1997, oil on canvas, 20 x 30, Estimate: $75,000-$125,000

Perhaps you’ve inherited a lovely painting from your great aunt that just isn’t your vibe. Or maybe the stunning sculpture you bought twenty years ago was a perfect fit for your ultra modern home, but now you’re downsizing to a lakeside cottage.

Whatever the situation, selling art at auction is a great way to get results.

To help you get started, here are the answers to many commonly asked questions.

Who sells art at auction?

Most of our consignments come from private collectors. Another common source is estates. When an estate is liquidating assets, they often need an auction house to take an entire collection, or a portion of what the family decides not to keep.

Clymer John 1907 1989 Buffalo Hunt Oil On Board 15 X 30 Inches

John Clymer (1907-1989), Buffalo Hunt, oil on canvas, 20 x 30, Estimate: $100,000-$200,000. Provenance: From the Collection of T. Boone Pickens

We also work closely with museums. Sometimes items are donated to museums that are not a fit for the permanent collection, or are duplicates of items already in the collection. In these instances, museums often opt to sell the items and use the funds for acquisitions, operations, or other budgetary needs.

In addition, each year we invite a select number of contemporary artists to create new work for the auction.

Reynolds James Changinthewheelhorse Oil 24x3672dpi1

James Reynolds (1926-2010), Changin’ the Wheel Horse, oil on canvas, 24 x 36, Estimate: $20,000-$30,000. Provenance: The Eddie Basha Collection, Chandler, AZ

Why are people selling?

Clients have different reasons for selling, but some of the most common are downsizing, moving, a change in décor or aesthetic, death of a relative/inheritance, and investment liquidation.

What are the benefits of selling at auction?

There are four main benefits of selling at auction: fees, transparency, results and timing.

  • Fees—Auctions have lower seller’s commissions than many galleries or dealers.
  • Transparency—There is transparency with auctions, everyone sees and knows what pieces sell for and the results are published.
Tiessen Josh 1995 Liberation Of The Jackalope Oil On Braced Baltic Birch 21 X 29

Josh Tiessen (1995- ), Liberation of the Jackalope, oil on braced Baltic birch, 20 3/4 x 28 1/2 (oval), Estimate: $8,000-$12,000

  • Results—The competitive nature of auctions can lead to a bidding war, realizing higher prices for the consignor than if the work had sold in a gallery.
  • Timing—With an auction there is a set sale date, while with private sales it can take an indeterminate amount of time for a sale to happen.
Rungius Carl 1869 1959 Above The Treeline Oil On Canvas 30 X 40 New

Carl Rungius (1869-1959), Above the Treeline, oil on canvas, 30 x 40, Estimate: $300,000-$500,000

How to Sell Work at Auction:

Selling work at auction is a fairly straightforward process.

Herzog Hermann 1832 1932 A Mountain Torrent Oil On Canvas 44 X 60

Hermann Herzog (1832-1932), A Mountain Torrent, oil on canvas, 44 x 60, Estimate: $60,000-$90,000

This is how we do it at Jackson Hole Art Auction:

Step one: The client submits an image of the piece they wish to auction, along with the dimensions, medium, artist, and title.

Step two: A vetting committee reviews the work, researches auction results for other works by that artist, considers the subject matter, size, quality, date and any other relevant factors.

Step three: We provide a recommend low estimate and high estimate, which is the published range of where the piece is expected to sell. We also provide a reserve which is a confidential minimum price, at or below the low estimate. If the bidding does not meet the reserve, then the piece does not sell.

How accurate are estimates? We try to be slightly conservative but also realistic! We see about 1/3 sell below the low estimate, about 1/3 sell within the range, and about 1/3 sell over the high estimate! We also provide details on any fees as well as what the seller’s commission is.

Step four: If the terms are agreeable we move forward with a contract and then the consignor ships or delivers the work to us.

Step five: We then photograph, research, catalog, and display the works leading up to the sale.

Kuhn Bob 1920 2007 Stuff Of Legends Acrylic On Masonite 22 X 30

Bob Kuhn (1920-2007), Stuff of Legends, 1999, acrylic on masonite, 22 x 30, Estimate: $100,000-$150,000

Madison Webb is the Auction Director at Jackson Hole Art Auction, one of the premier art events in the country. View their profile and visit their gallery at 130 E Broadway Avenue, JacksonWY or contact them at 866-549-9278.

Content for this article provided by Jackson Hole Art Auction.

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