To the uninitiated the thrill of the auction can often come with a few surprises, this list of frequently asked questions aims to open up the mysteries of the auction room by answering who can bid and what happens when a work is auctioned..

Can an artist (seller) bid in their auction?

Yes – but artists (sellers) can not bid on their own artwork.

The Auction Collective have a zero-tolerance policy on price fixing and bidding on your own work can be a method to inflate prices.

Who can attend a Live Auction?

On rare occasions some Live Auctions are invite-only. But for the majority, whether online or live, everyone is very welcome to the auction: artists, colleagues, friends, families and collectors.

What will happen when my artwork is sold in a Live Auction?

When your artwork is sold, the auctioneer will first introduce it to the bidders.

The auctioneer will start the bidding a little lower than the low estimate. This is to ‘flush out’ any potential bidders that the auctioneer can then encourage to bid higher.

This might make it look as if the artwork is selling below the low estimate but, don’t panic, the auctioneer will never sell an artwork below the agreed reserve (the minimum price at which you are happy for the work to be sold).

To encourage bidding, and generate an exciting atmosphere, the auctioneer might call out the bidding increments up to the reserve without having anyone else bid.

This is known as ‘bidding against the wall’ or ‘chandelier bidding’. It is a common practice in auctions to get that iconic buzz of a saleroom. The better the atmosphere, the more inclined people are to buy.

But the auctioneer will only do this below the reserve. Once there is a bid at the reserve they will stop bidding ‘against the wall’ and only take real bids.

Live Auction Example

Lot 25, Estimate: £5,000 – 7,000, Reserve: £5,000

Auctioneer: “Who would like to start the bidding for lot 25 at £4,000? ... £4,200? ... £4,500?” – they might do this without anyone bidding in the room but once they get one bid away from the reserve they will stop.

Auctioneer: “And at £4,800?... Any bids?” – if someone then bids the next increment, £5,000, then that is great and they can sell it to them at the reserve.

If not, the auctioneer will declare it as either “Unsold”, “Passed” or “Bought In” meaning they will move onto the next auction lot.

E.g. “Lot 25 is passed at £4,800.”

Not to draw attention to the unsold lot, and dampen the atmosphere of the room, this might be done in a very upbeat and energetic way.

So listen carefully, if the auctioneer brings down the hammer below the reserve then the work has not sold despite them sounding positive.

You can watch a Live-Stream auction demonstration here.