Many non-profit organizations hold annual auctions to raise funds, inviting artists to contribute works to be offered for sale. The quality of work and level of artists contributing often varies greatly from event to event, here are some tips for identifying the events that are likely to offer the highest quality of art.
- Events that share the profits of the bidding with the artists are likely to attract professional level artists, whereas those that offer “exposure” only are more popular with amateurs and those that are just starting out. That is not to say that you might not find something of good quality in the latter, just that if you are looking for something by an established artist, you are more likely to find it in an auction that offers some form of compensation to the artist.
- An auction held by an arts organization is more likely to be professionally curated, or at least juried by professionals in the arts. For example, I am currently participating in two such events: The Salmagundi Club of NY’s Annual Spring Auctions (you can actually bid online if you cannot attend in person), and the For Arts’ Sake Weekend Fundraiser at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, a silent auction to support the largest art center/school in the state. Each of these events is carefully curated to ensure that the quality of work in the auctions is of professional quality.
- Events that tie in with some sort of historical theme related to architecture are another great source of quality art usually from local professional artists. This is particularly true when the town they are located in has a history of being home to well known artists from the past. Lambertville is one such town, the Lambertville Historical Society annually hosts a plein air invitational event during their Autumn House Tour of historic homes. I have participated in this event 2 years in a row and it is wonderfully organized for both artists and collectors.
Whether you are new to collecting or looking to add to an established collection, art auctions can be a great source of new and diverse art. Often, the work sells for less than it might in a retail gallery, so you might actually get a great deal on an established artist’s work. Plus, you are supporting organizations committed to the arts at the same time!
Note: The Salmagundi Spring Auctions are held on Fridays in March at 8 pm, there are two auctions remaining, one on March 20 and the final one on March 27. Catalogs are available online at Live Auctioneers.