Auction viewings – see great art for free!

By in Events & Review


Here at ArtWeb we don’t half enjoy a spot of exhibition-browsing.  Especially during what has been a cold, wet, is-it-ever-going-to-end Winter.   If you’re rather partial to a stroll around an art gallery every so often (whether for buying or browsing), the chances are you’re up-to-date on what’s on at your favourite local gallery.  And it’s rather hard to miss any of the ‘biggie’ exhibitions on at the major national galleries due to their press coverage.  Whilst these are often fantastic to attend, they usually don’t come cheap!  Another way of viewing amazing works of art – for free! – is by attending the free previews at auction houses up and down the country.  Some auction houses – such as Christie’s or Sotheby’s – hold auctions that attract the world’s media with works by artists such as Van Gogh, Pollock, Klimt and others.  As well as the big names in the art world, auctions feature works by artists of all genres who you may have never heard of before.  Charity auctions often feature new unseen and up-and-coming artists; it’s a win-win situation – the artist gets exposure and the chance to contribute to a good cause and the good cause gets the money!  Smiles all round.

Viewings Are Free

The beauty of art auctions – charity or not – is that the viewings are always free.  All you need to do is check out the websites of the auction houses in your area or the big three in London (Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams) and sign up for email alerts when a new collection is coming up for auction.  The public viewings are usually held 3 to 4 days before the actual auction itself.  The other beauty is that auctions often unearth masterpieces which haven’t been hung in galleries and which have been out of the public eye for years and years!

turning buyers into repeat art customers
Photo by ERTÜRK

By going along to the public view, you can be one of the first to glimpse it before the queues start forming once it’s unveiled in the gallery which has the golden credit card and is established enough (or should that read mad enough?) to bid.

Check online for charity art auction notifications too…I usually just type ‘charity art auctions 2010’ into Google and it comes up with the goods!  It’s fun to attend the actual auction too, even if you’re not buying.  Auctions can be exciting and atmospheric and, coupled with a bevvy at the pub before or after, make for a good alternative night out!  If you are interested in buying, it’s a good idea to attend a couple of auctions where you’re only there as an observer first, to get a sense of how it all works.  As long as you set yourself a budget and stick to it (which is easier said than done….how many of us have got a little carried away in the last few frenzied seconds of bidding for things on Ebay?), you could well bag yourself an arty bargain!

So…before you head to see the latest Monet exhibition at Tate Britain, have a quick look at what’s going under the hammer this year.  And then go along for a free sneaky peak!  You’ll save your pennies and be one of the first to have a butchers.

Still need convincing?  Van Gogh’s drawing,  ‘Pine Trees In Front Of The Wall Of The Asylum’,  recently fetched £769,250 at Christie’s, London, in February of this year.  Check out some of the other – ahem – slightly more expensive lots which have made for impressive free public viewings from previous auctions over the years……

  • ‘Massacre Of The Innocents’, Sir Peter Paul Rubens….fetched £49.5 million at Sotheby’s, London, in July 2002.
  • ‘Le Bassin aux Nympheus’ by Claude Monet….fetched £40.9 million at Christie’s, London, in June 2008.
  • ‘Acrobate et jeune Arlequin’ by Pablo Picasso….fetched £20.9 million at Christie’s, London , in 1988.

Some Picasso ceramics are coming up for auction at Bonhams in London this September….prices around £10-15,000.  Need some new dinner plates?

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