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How to Buy Artwork at Auction

Whether you buy for investment purposes or for the love of artwork, auctions provide compelling opportunities to secure unique works and good bargains.


  • Step 1: Prepare for auction day by previewing works you wish to bid on, registering as a bidder, and deciding in advance how much money you are willing to spend.
  • TIP: Live bidding tempts bidders to get caught in the moment and pay more for a piece than intended.
  • Step 2: Be prepared to pay for art pieces according to auction venue standards. With any luck, you'll soon hang that investment or masterpiece on your wall to enjoy for years to come.
  • FACT: An Alberto Giacometti sculpture broke art auction records in 2010 selling for $104.3 million.
  • Step 3: Learn the rules, guidelines, and commission rates of the type of auction you intend to patronize.
  • Step 4: Know a venue's bidding options which may include live bids, bidding through internet sites, e-mail, postal mail, fax, or phone.
  • Step 5: Research the value of artworks you intend to buy to ensure your investment is sound.
  • Step 6: Consider the auction options and choose from traditional auction houses, person-to-person online auctions, galleries, and consignment auctions.
  • TIP: Auctions provide opportunities to buy works not available at galleries.
  • Step 7: Decide what artist or artwork you intend to purchase to determine auction venues matching your buying goals.

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