How To Cosign Art At Auction

Learn the 3 easy steps to placing your fine art on consignment and selling at auction

You have decided you would like to sell a piece of artwork you own at auction but you have no idea how to begin the process. The process is actually fairly simple and it should only take you a couple of days to compile all the necessary information to decide if selling at auction is right for you.

Step 1: Gather all known information about the piece of artwork

Gather all known information about the piece of artwork that you would like to sell at auction. This is important, as the different specialists that you speak to at an auction house will need this information to let you know whether they are interested in putting your piece in one of their auctions, as well as an auction estimate. The details you definitely need to have ready are:

* The artist name
* Date of creation (if known)
* Title (if known)
* Dimensions
* Medium
* All known provenance

Additionally, take images of the work (front and back), as the specialists will most likely ask for images if you are not able to bring the work in.

Step 2: Find out if the artist of the piece you are selling has any auction history.

Find out if the artist of the piece you are selling has any auction history. There are many websites that have this information including AskArt.com and ArtNet. You can also just google the name of the artist and the word auction–for example, “Romare Bearden auction”. Any of those searches should bring up the names of auction houses that have already sold work by your artist. These auction houses will be your best bet when it comes to selling your piece. Those are the auction houses that you should contact first.

Step 3: Contact the auction house

Contact your first auction house. Based from the research done in Step 2, you should have the name of at least one auction house. Contact that auction house—via phone or email. Let them know that you have a piece that you would like to put in one of their auctions, and if you have done the work from Step 1, you will have all of the information ready that they will need from you. After the initial information is given to the specialist, you should be contacted within a week regarding interest in your piece, an auction estimate, and all information from the auction house in regards consigning. If they are interested in handling the work, be sure to know the terms of consignment before agreeing to consign. The terms of consignment include the commission the auction house will be taking from the sale of the work, the deadline to have the work at the auction house, and all fees.

Alaina McEachin

Author: Alaina McEachin

Alaina McEachin has been working in the African-American Fine Art department at Swann Auction Galleries for a little over a year. She received a BA (magna cum laude) from Howard University in Art History, with a concentration in American Modern and Contemporary Art and further emphasis in African-American Art. While an undergrad, Alaina minored in German and took classes at Corcoran College of Art & Design as well as Vanderbilt University through a domestic exchange program.

In the summer of 2012, Alaina served as Director’s Fellow at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where she created interpretive materials in conjunction with the exhibition William H. Johnson: An American Modern. Just prior to joining Swann, Alaina served as an interpretive guide at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Smithsonian Institution’s museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. In her spare time, Alaina enjoys reading, visiting museums and trying out new restaurants.

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