How do art auctions really work


Auction houses are a place where property or any kind of objects are sold to anyone who bids the highest. Now there are different kinds of auctions that are held amongst all of them there are Art auctions. In art auctions, different types of exclusive artworks are on sale, and whoever places the highest bid can take the artwork into their possession. They are basically public events where anyone can participate.

In an Art Auction, any type of art can be sold but paintings are the most common. Now, one cannot hold an art auction without knowing anything about it, it needs lots of work and patience. In this article, we will talk about how Art Auction actually works in real. So, let’s get started with our business.

“Auction houses run a rigged game. They know exactly how many people will be bidding on work and exactly who they are. In a gallery, works of art need only one person who wants to pay for them.”

—Jerry Saltz

What is an Auction?

An auction is nothing but a sales event where buying and selling of products and services happen through bidding. People compete with each other to get hold of the item of their choice.

To secure the item one has to bid higher than the previous bidder, the price increases with each bid until no one else is willing to bid more than the current price. For example, if the last bid is $50,000 and no one is willing to bid for $50,500, the item will go to the buyer with the highest bid.

In an auction, one can find various objects like antique pieces, rare objects, properties, company or some artworks that include painting and others. In every auction house, there is a team of specialists who sets the prices for the items that are going to be used for auctions.

History Of Auctions

The exact process of Auction came into existence around 500 B.C. At that time, women were sold in Greece for marriage by using the method of auction. Then in the United States, various properties, agricultural products, and slaves were used to get sold through this method.

With time, artworks, properties, and rare objects are sold to people. Thanks to the help of modern technology, computers, cell phones can be used for bidding in auctions. Not only that, but we also have various online auction sites like eBay where people can bid to acquire their favourite items.

Types of Auction

There are four types of auctions and they are:

English Auction

This is the most common type of auction. It is an open auction where the participants compete with each other by bidding higher than the other buyers to secure the item for themselves.

The prices of the items are stated by the hosts and then the bidding starts, the participants call out the bids and it continues till no one is willing to bid higher than the last bid. The item goes to the person who is the highest and the final bidder. This auction is common while selling wine, artworks, tobacco, or any kind of antique product.

Dutch Auction

This is like the opposite of an English Auction. The auctioneer starts the auction with a high price and the bid keeps getting lower until one of the participants who is a bidder is willing to accept the price of the item. This method of auction is mostly used for flowers, fish, tobacco, and for investment securities.

First-price Sealed-bid Auction

It is basically a blind auction, where the bidders submit their bids but are shielded from the eyes of their competitors. Only one bid can be submitted for the auction and there is no option to change it. This method is mostly used in foreign exchange, refinancing credit, government contract tendering, mining leases, and military procurement.

Second-price Sealed-bid Auction

This is quite like the First-price sealed bid auction the only difference is that the highest bidder gets the products at the price that was bid by the second-highest bidder. This type of bidding method is used for online advertising.

How do Art Auctions Work?

An auction has to follow a process so that it can work out properly, down below are the steps that have to be followed:

A Short Preview is Given about the Auction

At the beginning of the auction, the potential buyers are given a short preview where they get to see what products are going to be on sale at the auction and what their conditions are. The preview time can a day before the auction or a few hours before the start of the auction.

Buyers are Registered

After the preview, the potential buyer has to register themselves with the auctioneer. The process of registration involves the buyer’s details like their phone number, address, and identity proof. The bidders are then given a number card through which they can get identified.

Beginning of the Auction

The sound of a bell signifies the starting of the auction. The host or the auctioneer talks about the items and describes them to the bidders and then the bidding is started with a minimum price. Then the bidders start their bidding and the price keeps increasing with the bidders calling out their bids higher than the previous one.

End of Auction

The whole procedure stops when there are no more bids and when the hammer comes down, the person with the last bid takes the object into their possession after paying for it.


Billions of dollars are obtained through art auctions and it can only happen when it is done properly. Auction houses need to be careful with anything and everything when it comes to art auctions. If you are a fan of artworks then an art auction is an ideal place to find your favourite piece and let others do the same and to do that the whole process must be followed diligently.


How do art auctions really work?

Before beginning an art auction, the buyers are given a preview of the artwork. As the bell rings, the auction starts and the buyer with the highest bid acquires the item.

Do artists make money from auctions?

No, artists only make money when their artworks are sold on the primary market.

Can anyone go to an Art Auction?

While some of the art auctions’ are exclusive, some can actually be attended by anyone who wants to.

What do auction houses do?

Auction houses are in charge of buying and selling goods such as rare items, artworks, or properties through auctions.

Can auctions be held online?

With time and the help of technology, auctions are now can be held online.


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