14 Apr 2008

Buying at an Auction - a few tips

Auctions of Indian modern and contemporary art are gaining in popularity with new auction houses coming up and with an overall increase in demand for Indian art.
The biggest advantage with buying at an auction is that an artwork that is rare or rates high on a collector’s wish list is likely to come up only at such events. And, therefore when a collector or an investor picks up such an artwork, prices are only going to appreciate in the future. This is not to say that auctions are only for the seasoned collector or investor. New buyers looking to add value to their investment portfolio may also consider picking up a few good pieces at an auction. When buying at an auction the credentials and the reputation of the auction house is a very important factor that needs to be considered.

Here are a few pointers for prospective buyers looking to bid at an auction:
Prospective buyers need to register themselves, either at an official website for an online auction or with the auction house at a physical auction prior to the event. Usually there is a detailed form that needs to be filled up.
The catalogue listing all details pertinent to the artworks (lots) and other sale details are available through the auction house.
One must carefully go through the catalogue and check the information regarding the artists, size, medium, provenance and the estimated prices.
Once you have short-listed the artworks you are interested in, you should validate them at the viewing, which is organized before the actual auction date. Generally the viewing is organised at one or more venues (it could even be different cities) and offers an opportunity for the prospective buyer to get a feel for the artwork (check its condition, etc).
Go though the fine print regarding service charges, taxes, commissions and other charges, if any.
Find out about the bidding procedure – it can be usually done in person, through a representative or over the phone, and on the Internet, in case of an online auction.

It is always advisable that you consider your budget and define your upper limit before you actually start bidding.

(Published in Financial Times)

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