Whether you are a collector wishing to resell part of your collection, or an individual that has just inherited artworks that you do not want to keep, the sale of artworks on the second market has really taken off. But how to do you benefit from a transaction with conditions for the “uninitiated” that are often confusing?
Art is now considered an excellent diversification investment choice; artworks sell well, even in times of crisis, but it’s important to choose the right intermediaries. At Singulart, we go through different alternatives available to the individual wishing to resell an artwork, to allow you to sell at the best price.
Make an estimation and authenticate your artwork
Estimating and authenticating your artwork is the first step if you are wishing to resell. Authentication can be quite easy if the artwork is by a recognized artist, then you just need to consult their catalogue. But in most cases it is advisable to call a specialist (art historian, antique dealer…) who can certify that your artwork is an original, not the work of a forger.
There are several factors that generally influence the value of an artwork: first of all, its traceability, which is fundamental to estimate the final value. You must be able to attest the provenance of your artwork: if it was part of an illustrious collection, the final price will be inevitably inflated.
The general condition of the artwork and its conditions of conservation will also determine the estimation of the value of your artwork.
For a more detailed description of the procedures on how to estimate the value of an artwork, you can read our article How to authenticate an artwork?
The different intermediaries and means of transaction
Let’s remember first of all that there is best way: the strategy to adopt will depend on the type of object you want to sell (old painting, contemporary art, furniture or art object…) and its estimated value. Several resale choices are available to you.
Sale by mutual agreement
This is, in other words, a sale between private individuals, characterized by the absence of an intermediary: the sales agreement is made directly between the seller and the buyer. This exchange is often informal, and is usually done in the context of bargaining or at a flea market if it is an artwork with little financial value. If after estimating your artwork, it is decided to have a certain value, it is then better to seek the support of an intermediary: a specialized carrier, an expert, or even a lawyer for international sales. The services of a lawyer specialized in the art market will be able to settle in advance the questions of applicable law and competent jurisdiction, in order to avoid any kind of litigation.
You can also contact an independent consultant or a broker specialized in ancient or modern art, who will help you find a potential buyer for your artwork, taking a commission on its final price. This method of resale offers the advantage of being particularly confidential, if you do not want your artwork to be published, as is the case during big auctions. The information is restricted to a small number of insiders. Nevertheless this is not the best option if you want to sell your work quickly.
Deposit to a gallerist, a second-hand dealer or an antique dealer
Many gallerists and antique dealers provide individuals to estimate and authenticate an artwork and to sell it afterwards. You can make a free deposit in a gallery, a flea market or with an antique dealer, depending on the status of your work. The antique dealer or the gallerist will then, in most cases, expose your work and look for a possible purchaser. The proposed selling price will be decided from the price fixed by the estimate, to which the antique dealer adds his own commission (generally between 20 and 30% in addition to the estimation price). If the sale takes place, the antique dealer then gives to the seller the sum fixed during the evaluation of the work.
As with the sale by mutual agreement, the main advantage of the sale by deposit is to ensure discretion both for the work and to its salesman.
The antique dealer can also propose that the seller buy the piece directly and then sell it again: this offers the advantage of a very fast sale, and the seller can access the sales income directly. But an antique dealer who buys merchandise from an individual thinks first and foremost about making a good margin for resale, and will therefore tend to value your work at a much lower price than the market would.
Resale in an auction house
The big auction houses like Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Artcurial or Drouot offer a free estimation service that allows you to sell your artworks at the auction. These international institutions organize prestigious sales during which auctions can easily take off. They are organized in departments (old painting, contemporary art, antique furniture …), each headed by a specialist in a specific field of expertise. Depending on the value and type of object you want to sell, there are also very good regional auction houses specialized in a particular field: watchmaking and jewelry, furniture …
During the appraisal, the specialist sets an estimate price for the work, which is displayed before the sale in the catalogs. It is also fixed a reserve price, lower or equal to the low price of the estimate, below which the work can not be adjudged. At the auction the auctioneer decides the amount from which he starts the auction; this starting bid is usually lower than the low amount of the estimate, to entice potential buyers to bid.
The main merit of the auction is transparency and security: the house checks the creditworthiness of the buyer before concluding any transaction. Most auction houses also offer an online and telephone auction service during the auction process, which allows sales to be opened up to international clients as well as buyers who are not present in the room. Nevertheless it should be kept in mind that during most sales between 10 and 30% of lots do not find takers. The auction house also charges a fee to the seller, usually between 10 and 20% of the final sale price.
Here are the three main alternatives available to you if you want to resell a work of art. These are the same channels that you can use if you want to buy a work. With regard to contemporary art, more than half of the sales are now in galleries. Singulart Online Art Gallery offers you a special selection of contemporary international artists to expand your collection of contemporary painting and photography.
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