Fancy being an Auctioneer and selling paintings for millions?

The auctioneer
The Auctioneer

No, I’m not talking about auctioning household stuff where the maximum price is likely to be in the hundreds.

I’m talking about being a Fine Art auctioneer for someone like Christie’s, Bonhams or Sotheby’s.

What do you think the requirements would be to become one of these top auction houses auctioneers?

Well, the first thing is you have to be good at maths.   You also have to possess an authoritative voice which is clear and everyone who is bidding knows you are in charge.

How do you get to become an Auctioneer?

The first thing is to join a top auction house and become involved with the various auctions that they have virtually every day.

Knowledge of all the items that are sold through the auction house is important and this is the time to gain that knowledge as you handle items of great value.

Over time, you will specialise in a particular field, e.g. silver, pictures, ceramics etc.  The main auction houses always have auctioneers who specialise in a particular field, and these are the auctions they will take.

Top Auction Houses give Training to become an Auctioneer

These top auction houses train their own auctioneers in-house and through a selection process.  They look for people that they feel might have the ability and possibly at this stage, may select up to 10.

Dr Gachet-Van Gogh
Dr Gachet by Van Gogh sold for $149 million dollars

It is then whittled down through various tests to maybe a short list of 3.  These three will then have “one-to-one” training from one of the houses top auctioneers, over a period of time until they feel they are ready to take a sale on their own.  In the beginning, if your speciality is pictures, then you will probably start with one of their print sales where the top value is in the thousands rather than millions.

It takes time and a lot of experience until you will be able to take a sale that deals in works of art in the millions.  Only the houses top auctioneers get to take these sales and they are all experts in their chosen field.

Auctioneers need to have their wits about them because not only will you have bidders in the room, you will also have people who have left absentee bids, people bidding on the phone and then, of course, a great number of sales are now on-line and people can bid from the comfort of their home.

Internet Bidding

Internet bidding has become the fastest growing sector in auctions these days and recent information suggests that it is pushing 30% at this time.

Les Femmes d'alger by Picasso
Les Femmes d’Alger by Picasso sold for $179 million dollars

Auctioneers also need to be aware how people are bidding.  You have to register to bid and you are usually given what is called a “paddle” with a number on.  To start bidding, the paddle is raised to show the auctioneer you are bidding.  After this, you may just nod, wink or give some other sign that you are still bidding.  The auctioneer has to be aware of all these little ways that people use, which sometimes are hardly perceptible.

A good sense of humour is also an asset and to be calm and friendly in what is an often a stressful environment.

Apart from ensuring the auction is conducted in a good-natured business like manner, the role of the auctioneer is to get the best price on each item to the benefit of the seller but also to the auction house that works on a commission basis.  A good auctioneer will usually be able to coax a further bid from someone who has reached their limit if the auctioneer can persuade them that just one more bid may be successful.

The most successful auctioneers travel the world to sell at the most prestigious auctions.  I’m sure every auctioneer would aspire to reach this level.

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