Specializing as a fine art and/or gallery auctioneer can be a very rewarding career in the auction, art and gallery industries.

At Western College of Auctioneering, our fine auctioneer course is taught by world champion auctioneers and industry leaders who know and understand the fine art and gallery auction industry, inside and out.

Upon completion of our course, you will have a full understanding of how to conduct, manage and sell all niches of fine art and gallery auctions. Our auction school specifically covers the following areas of fine art and gallery auctions:

  • How to conduct an art and/or gallery auction
  • Effective art and gallery auction bid calling
  • Cutting edge online and technological components of the art and gallery auction industry
  • Working with buyers and sellers at auctions
  • Laws pertaining to art and gallery auctions
  • Art and gallery auction contracts
  • How to market an auction
  • Current market trends
  • Sale day operations
  • Auction terminology
  • Auction clerking and cashiering
  • How to market your fine art and gallery auction business

If you’re wanting to get into auctions as a professional service, our auction course will provide the professional development you need to set yourself above the rest.

The fundraising and benefit auction world is changing, and auction professionals must adapt and grow to remain relevant, secure business, and retain clients. Our course goes beyond the basics to teach you the advanced benefits of in-person, virtual, and hybrid events; client consultation skills and practices; and best practices for conducting a successful benefit auction and fundraising event to enhance revenue and engage the audience.

When you complete this class and the designation requirements, you will have a start to your professional network and resources to promote your value and accelerate the fundraising success of your clients as soon as possible.

fine art auction training course

1. What You Need to Know

When an auction house acquires a piece of artwork, a fine arts auctioneer will appraise the piece and examine it to determine its value. He or she will also conduct research on the piece of art to create estimates of what it might sell for at auction.  Pieces are then gathered and featured in a catalog, and there may also be a pre-sale exhibition where the public can view the groups of works.  At the auction, each piece is bid on separately. If it doesn’t receive any bids or doesn’t’ reach a reserve price, it is bought-in. If the piece of artwork is sold, the buyer is reasonable for the hammer price and buyer’s premium, plus any taxes. The auction house takes a commission, which is deducted from the final price, with the rest of the proceeds going to the consignor.

The fine arts auctioneer plays a vital role in every step of an auction; from gathering items for sale, sorting them into lots, and preparing a sale bill that advertises the location and date of the auction, to researching items for authenticity and value, and setting up the sound system.  And, while ‘bid-calling’ or the ‘auction chant’ might stand out as the most memorable part of an auction, it is really only a small part of the job. Besides finding and appraising fine art, an auctioneer will also spend a lot of time finding clients and building relationships, and studying the market.

A fine arts auctioneer must also have a complete understanding of any laws that may govern the sale of a particular item, such as if an item is part of an estate or is available because of bankruptcy.

On auction day, a fine arts auctioneer must be both salesman and entertainer and will need a great deal of stamina and energy to get through the day. Auctioneers must have a strong voice and good communication skills, confidence, and enjoy being in the spotlight. But, most importantly, they need a strong background and advanced knowledge in fine art. That’s where we can help!

2. What Does It Take to Make the Cut?

Although a degree is not necessary to make it as a fine arts auctioneer, many auctioneers receive training at specialized schools or earn a degree in art history to learn the trade and obtain licenses. The fine arts auctioneer field is highly specialized and requires a great deal of knowledge about art and the art world. It also requires a broad knowledge of history, cultures, artists, ethics, law, and communications.

The National Auctioneers Association (NAA) reports that 35 percent of all auctioneers hold degrees, while another 36 percent have some college experience.  But, becoming an expert in fine arts is the key to success in this competitive market. To become a highly specialized fine arts auctioneer, a graduate degree or even a doctorate may be required. Many individuals who work in art auction houses are also art appraisers or art dealers who are certified by professional art associations, such as the American Society of Appraisers (ASA), Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), or Private Art Dealers Association (PADA), among others.

Individuals can also work as an apprentice to an experienced professional in addition to enrolling in our in-person or online distance-learning courses.

Another way to learn about this filed and gain valuable knowledge is to attend auctions, work for an auction company, intern while in school at a gallery or fine arts auction house. With training, there are even opportunities to become a fine art auctioneer aboard a cruise ship.

As in most art fields, working hard and submerging yourself in the art world are sure ways to become successful as a fine arts auctioneer. Attend art exhibitions at art galleries and museums, as well as other professional events for art professionals. And, dress the part. Auctions are usually semi-formal events and showing up in cut-off jeans and an old t-shirt won’t help your reputation or get you a future job.

3. Jobs Outlook and Salary

According to the NAA, fine arts auctioneer’s salaries vary a great deal as most are paid on commission, taking a percentage (usually 10 – 15 percent) of the proceeds from an auction.  Since most fine arts auctioneers are paid on commission, salary also depends on how much money a collection brings in. Estimates by the NAA are in the range of $46,000 per year for a part-time auctioneer (as of 2019). Fine arts auctioneers can make more or less.

Many auctioneers work part time and hold down other jobs, but as auctions are held whenever a collection is assembled, fine arts auctioneers may work weekends, evenings, and even some holidays when necessary, and travel is usually expected if employed by a large auction house. Auctions can also be seasonable, so some moths may be insanely busy, while other months there is no work at all.

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