Auction Houses becoming Art Dealers?

April 15 2020

Image of Auction Houses becoming Art Dealers?

Picture: Christie’s

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

I might be extremely late to this, but it seems that both Sotheby’s and Christie’s have been vamping up their private sales platforms recently. Both auction houses now have web pages specifically geared towards selling individual works at set prices (some as enquiry only, of course). This is a very interesting trend, which sees the auction houses increasingly taking on a role usually associated with art dealers.

Private Sales are nothing new. The Arts Newspaper reported that 17% ($990m) of Sotheby's revenue came from Private Sales in 2019. Most specialist departments in auction houses have dedicated directors who deal in seeking out and brokering sales between collectors. There are many reasons why a collector would rather not send their works of art to public auction. Risk that it might not sell being one of them, but other factors such as publicity also play a part in our increasingly connected world. Selling exhibitions, attached onto the side rooms of sale previews, have usually been the way that this is done. However, having a specific public page dedicated to available artworks seems like quite a recent feature.

Will it work? Only time will tell, perhaps. One of the strengths at selling at auction is the limited time factor. This must have contributed to Sotheby’s recent successful sale with London dealer Rafael Valls for example. 

Art dealers have their own unique strengths too. Many of the most longstanding dealers have strong brand identities, specialist knowledge and momentum that they can use to their advantage. For example, it is noteworthy how many dealers are increasingly using platforms like Instagram and other social media to present their artworks in an aesthetic that differentiates them from the rest. In comparison, auction houses can look rather lost, as they have many more hats to wear and plates to spin. Do all of these social media gimmicks help to sell pictures though, I wonder?

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.