After using our 5-step value estimation guide, you've realized your artwork might be worth something. But what's the next step?
Selling art is not always straightforward and requires a strategic approach. Fortunately, there are several viable methods available.
The 3 Methods to Sell Your Art
1. Consignment: A Hassle-Free Approach
Consignment is the easiest way to sell your art. This process involves partnering with a gallery or a professional seller. They handle the pricing, marketing, and selling of your artwork, in return for a percentage of the sales price.
At Austin Galleries, for example, we offer a selective consignment service. Learn more about that here.
Chairish, a consignment-based marketplace website, is a well-regarded and less selective option available to individual sellers (terms available here).
2. Auction: The Fastest Approach
Auctions represent a dynamic and assertive method for selling art. This approach places your item in front of eager bidders, often leading to a sale on the same day.
While this expedited process offers the convenience of speed, it does come with certain risks. Your item might fetch a lower price than it might have through other selling methods. On the other hand, the competitive nature of auctions can also drive the price higher, potentially resulting in a significantly better sale.
How to Auction an Art Piece
To start, you'll need to submit your art to an auction company. This is usually free. If they decide to take your art piece to auction, they will provide an estimated price range. This price range estimate is advertised to the public and often is set a bit lower than the art's actual fair market value in order to entice bidders.
You will also need to negotiate the reserve. A reserve is the minimum amount of money that a bidder would have to offer in order for the piece to sell. This is often the low end of the advertised estimate but is also sometimes below the low end. It is never greater than the advertised low-end estimate.
Pro Tip: the reserve is meant to be the minimum price you will be willing to sell for. Don’t get too carried away trying to negotiate a higher reserve. This will not improve the sale price. Instead, imagine the minimum price you would take for the piece and still feel good about the sale. We’ve seen many times where our clients insist on setting a higher reserve price at auction, only to have their artwork fail to sell. Subsequently, they often find themselves scrambling to sell the piece post-auction at a price even lower than the lowest bid received during the auction.
Commissions and Fees
In order to sell with an auction house, you will have to agree to a commission on the sale and pay a variety of fees. At Austin Galleries, we maintain special connections with major auction houses like Bonham’s and Heritage, allowing us to offer lower commission rates than what you'd typically face dealing directly with these houses. If you’re interested in auctioning a piece with us, check out our consignment page for more details.
There are also smaller auction houses that prioritize sale volume over maximizing value. These auction houses may be good if you need to rapidly liquidate your items, and don’t mind risking making less than they’re worth in the process.
3. Sales: For the Independent Seller
For those who don’t want to pay any fees, direct selling is another option, though it can be challenging. If you have a valuable enough piece, you can sometimes sell it outright to a gallery. Keep in mind, however, that if a gallery agrees to buy it from you outright, it is with intention to resell it at a higher price.
Alternatively, platforms like eBay, Etsy, or Facebook Marketplace can be used, though they are not specialized for fine art and might not yield quick sales, especially for higher-priced items. These platforms are generally more suitable for lower-priced art pieces.
Each of these methods has its own benefits and challenges, so choosing the right one depends on your specific needs and circumstances.