Art Auctions re-opening prompts advice change; from ‘stop’ to ‘get ready

Private Sales for top property may have boomed, but since March 2020 our advice to clients has been to put almost all auction activity on hold.

The on-line or hybrid auctions may have worked for a few exceptional items, or for low-end ‘shopping’, but for the majority of collections the inability to view the works in person and engage in the social aspects of being a collector, have depressed activity.

The anticipated lifting of lockdown, with international travel and a level of normality returning has meant that we are changing our advice to sellers and their advisers to ‘get ready’.

Our working hypothesis is that our clients should try to capture the perfect moment when supply is relatively limited, yet buyer optimism is at its peak. This may be in Q4 but could be as soon as June/July (especially if the large volumes of significant property waiting on the side-lines all move into Q4.)

It’s still prudent to wait a few weeks before making any commitments, however during this period we urge any Professional Advisers with clients who are considering a possible sale, or who are interested in taking advantage of the market’s return, to get their collections prepared. By that we mean:

  1. Get up-to-date estimates and review which works to keep or sell.
  2. Get all the paperwork ready – just as sellers undergo KYC checks, the artworks also undergo provenance and other checks before sale.
  3. Understand any tax issues arising from sale proceeds.
  4. Conduct a professionally managed competitive process to understand which auction house will deliver the best outcome, both commercially and (more importantly) in likely sales performance.

If you have a client considering a sale or would like to discuss any of the points above, please contact:

Willem de Gier

Richard Bagnall-Smith