Ways to Sell Your Art

Looking for more information on how you can sell your art? This article can help educate you to the benefits, drawbacks and dangers of some of the most common ways people go about selling art.

1. Auction

The auction route is a very popular way to sell fine art. It is the only place where one can actually get "more" than one is asking for a piece. A lot of art is sold this way, and though it is effective in determining a fair market value, there are problems that consignors must be aware of:

Auction houses charge about a 20% fee to "consignors" and 20% (Sotheby's and Christie's have just raised their fee to 25%) fee to buyers when they auction off an item. They make about 40%+ with no risk. Some will give a reserve price, but will charge for it as well as adding other fees such as insurance, photography and cataloging. A lot of the sale of the art goes to the auction house. A painting selling for $12,000 at auction ($10,000 hammer price plus $2,000 in buyers commission) would actually only net a consignor about $8,000 or less depending on fee that an auction house adds on. The auction house would make $4,000+. Payment from an auction house can be 7 days (rare) to 30-45 "working days". This means that they do not count weekends and get the use of your money for that time period. Being an auctioneer is a pretty good business!

CAUTION: There is a deceptive practice out there in the art world where a group of dealers, at auction will collude and agree to only have one person bid on a piece, and then resell it and split the proceeds. This can happen at all auction levels.

Additional Reading: Auction Pitfalls

2. Art Dealers

Art dealers are an optional way to sell art. They will normally try to buy a piece at about 50% of value, or less. There are many reputable dealers out there, but there are also many greedy ones who look to take advantage of novices. The plus side of working with a dealer is that you will get paid immediately, and sometimes they pay really well if they have a client for your art.

3. Art Galleries

Art galleries are avid buyers of art, and they have a large amount of ways to get it. I highly suggest caution when dealing with them. Like the normal art dealer, they will try to buy the piece as cheaply as possible. If they feel that the price you want is too high, they can offer to "sell" it in their gallery. This can be good, or bad.

The Good: Gallery gets you a high retail price for your piece.

The Bad: Piece sits in the gallery for years and does not sell. Your art is exposed and the "fresh" value is depleted. Dealers and Auction house shy away from pieces that are coming from galleries, as a lot of their clients have probably seen it.

CAUTION: There is a deceptive practice out there in the art world where a gallery owner will "closet" your painting in the back room to hide it from exposure and then tell the owner it will not sell at the price agreed on. The gallery will then try to low ball the consignor by saying there is little interest in the art. This is a great way to protect a painting from being exposed, having control of the piece, and basically wearing down the consignor to a lower price.

Additional Reading: My Opinion of Park West Gallery