It’s not just a percentage of the bidding price that goes to the auction house. You might also be liable for marketing, storage, shipping costs, packaging, an appearance in the catalogue – and perhaps even a fee if your work doesn’t sell. Navigating the costs of selling at auction can be tricky and inexperienced sellers can get burned.
For a better overview of costs, work with a gallery whose staff can guide you through the process. As Hang-Up founder Ben Cotton notes, “There should be no unexpected surprises when selling through a gallery – as opposed to an auction house, where there are often all sorts of hidden costs both for buyer and seller”.
Director Ben Cotton speaking with artist Patrick Hughes at his exhibition, Hang-Up Gallery 2021.
An easier process
Getting your pieces ready for sale at auction can be a headache. Any certificates of authentication must be in order and it helps to have a paper trail of invoices too. In addition, your art might need to be well displayed and – if necessary – even restored and repaired before it can be well marketed and achieve the best possible price. Without all this, an auction house may refuse to consider your piece or withdraw it later on. However, a respected gallery can guide clients through both housekeeping and how to display work to its best advantage, removing much of the stress of the sale.
The right buyers
Sadly, no matter how impressive your collection is, there are no guarantees that the right buyer for your work will bid at auction. But, if your art isn’t sold on the day, it can be damaging in terms of value for both the piece and the artist (and you’ll have to pay for it to be shipped back to you, as well as possible unsold fees).
Not only is selling through a gallery a more discreet way to test the market but it also guarantees access to wide-ranging customers. Buyers can be put off by the elitist nature of auctions and the opacity of the process whereas a good gallerist’s knowledge can act like a matchmaking service between clients and pieces of work. They should know exactly what their clients are looking for – and how much they’re willing to pay. As a result, you may achieve a quicker sale and a higher price than at auction.
Installation view of GAME CHANGERS, Hang-Up Gallery, London
The opportunity for further investment
Far more than a one-off transaction, selling through a gallery enables clients to develop a relationship that can guide a collection for years to come. A good gallerist will act as an adviser, helping to build a coherent and important grouping of pieces and letting you know when the time is right to buy or sell work.
Achieving the price that you want
Though some works go far beyond their guide prices at auction, others fall short: some auction houses even offer a discreet option to sell below the reserve price. A good gallery will always offer guidance on the kind of figure that’s achievable, but they will not sell at a point that the seller is uncomfortable with. However, with some works consigned to auction months before the hammer hits, the price of pieces can suffer with market trends and fluctuation.
If an artist’s market is experiencing a lull or has recently been busy with other pieces by the same person, the right gallery will gladly advise on the best sales strategy. If it takes a bit longer, so be it – galleries do not have the same time restrictions as auction houses.
Visit our Sell Art page.
At Hang-Up Gallery, we specialise in selling art created by the best contemporary artists. Our Sell Art page offers a detailed list of frequently asked questions about the consignment process and transparent information on our commission rates.
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