How Do You Buy Art At An Auction? We Ask A Christie's Specialist

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 28 months ago
How Do You Buy Art At An Auction? We Ask A Christie's Specialist
Bianca Chu stands in front of works in the auction. Copyright Christie's Images.

Auctions can seem intimidating for many people. You may think you can't afford to take part, but they can be surprisingly accessible. Before Christie's London's First Open auction we talked to their contemporary art specialist Bianca Chu.

What's First Open London all about?
It's an auction with a low enough entry price point to attract young collectors. It's a platform that covers both emerging artists and the more established names. Visitors have a chance to discover art and artists they may never have heard of — even seasoned collectors often spot new artists in our First Open catalogue.

Isn't everything at auction houses sold for millions?
Though the million pound sales do make the headlines, that's only a part of what we do. In the First Open the starting point is a Richard Prince work with an estimate of £800 to £1,000. That's a price that's comparable to a year's gym membership. The First Open has 216 lots and 62% of these have an estimate of below £10,000 and 82% below £20,000.  Some of these are by established artists and it's important to recognise that works by these artists aren't off limits to young collectors.

This work by Sol Lewitt will be sold through the First Open. Image courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.

What should people do before deciding whether to participate in an auction?
The best thing is to learn about art by seeing as much art as possible — talk to friends and visit galleries, auction houses, art fairs and artists' studios. This will help you decide what you like. It will help refine your preferred style, medium and colours. It also helps to know where the artwork will go and recognising that you'll have to live with it. We've written a piece on the 10 commandments for new collectors that sets out some key tips.

Where is it best to buy — galleries, art fairs or auction houses?
Prospective collectors should visit all of these, as they all offer different things. For example, a gallery will offer the artist's latest work and their full portfolio. Auction houses offer potential bargains as works can be picked up towards the lower end of the price estimate range.

The First Open London auction takes place on 14 April — but the full selection of lots is available to view from 9-13 April at Christie's South Kensington.

Last Updated 17 April 2016