The emergence of auction houses go hand-in-hand with the creation of arts markets that put a public price tag on art. Nowadays, it is often noted that about 40-60% commission goes to the auction houses to cover media, handling, publicity, auction fees, etc. So if you are thinking about consigning your art, here's a very brief introduction to what you might want to know / what it takes to list your artwork for auction:
Top 5 Auction Houses in the world: Christie's, Sotheby's, Heritage Auctions, Poly International Auction Company, and China Guardian. To locate the auction houses in your neighborhood, visit Artnet or similar directories.
For more information on the various fees that one may encounter when consigning for auction, here's an informative blog by Karen Keane. Do note that many auction houses, especially online auctions, only accept works from artists that have prior listings and auction records, creating quite the catch-22 for emerging artists.
Generally, what auction houses spend their money on to get your artwork to sell include: catalog printing, gallery exhibitions, networking/courting buyers, paying employees, media glamour, curating, valuation and basically eliminating the "friend and family rate" from the exchange so profit margins can increase. This reinforces the fact that buyers/patrons/collectors will get a better deal going straight to the source (the artist), and sellers/artists would benefit from using intermediaries to increase the value of their art.
Our answer: Virtual and physical museums/galleries/art spaces can and should coexist.
According to Deloitte and ArtTactic's 2014 Art and Finance Report, contemporary art sales have been growing by 21.5% annually, reaching $3.3 billion in the top 2 auction houses alone.
Nowadays, artists are reported to make a combined total of 1.5 billion euros (about 1.6 billion US dollars), 1.3 billion euros of which go to the top 500 in the world, according to ArtPrice.com. That means the remaining population of artists share about 200 million euros (or 216 US dollars) in combined income.
So what does that leave for the rest of the artists in the world? Here's a sobering perspective from Don Thompson's book, The Supermodel and the Barillo Box:
• 80000+ artists in New York and London alone, not including the growing Chinese artists population.
• 400 (0.5%) might show in galleries and make 6-7 figures annually.
That' leaves 79600 (99.5%) part-time, budding, under-the-radar artists.
With these odds, it's no wonder that most artists are not doing it for the money, and are simply driven by passion and love of the craft. We applaud the 99.5% and aspire to increase the odds.