11 Dec 2007

Should you buy at an auction?

When it comes to art there are numerous auction houses - both domestic and international - in the fray. We keep reading about reports where a certain painting fetched a record amount or where an artwork was withdrawn from the catalogue, as there were doubts about its authenticity. The latter used to be a fairly rare phenomenon until recently. Still, the important point is that artworks that lack credibility or have even a shadow of doubt attached to them are withdrawn from the sale proceedings. Sotheby, Christies, Bonhams Saffron Art and Osian are just a few of the auction houses that deal with art. There are many more auction houses that are being set up in India.

Should you buy at an auction?
Theoretically auction houses have experts in the field at hand, who carefully assess, evaluate and authenticate each work before adding it to their catalogue. Also, they ensure that the work is of good quality. Another advantage is that a variety of works can be found at an auction. And, in general artists that are represented at auctions are considered to be either established or promising.

Art collector Harish Padmanabha explains, “Anyone who has the desire to collect can buy from an auction.” He adds that reputed auction houses know good art from bad and that helps the buyer. They also assess the condition of the artwork, and provenance and authenticity are also taken care of. Another advantage for the buyer is that there is a transparency in the dealing, which may not happen with some art galleries and dealers.

For serious art collectors, auctions are probably the best way to source works that are rare or not available in the market. Collectors look at auctions to complete their set or own a work that is highly coveted. For new buyers it is always advisable that they attend a few auctions before starting to bid at one. It will help them to get familiar with the proceedings and will also add to their confidence level.

(Published in Financial Times)
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