How to find hidden gems at auction

How do you identify a hidden gem, that little-known work of art that has a value that isn’t immediately apparent to others? It’s never an easy task, especially at auctions, which are highly organized and competitive spaces. Fortunately, there are resources readily available – from auction ephemera to public events – that will equip even novice collectors in their quest to find artistic diamonds in the rough.

Catalogs

Auction catalogs are a vital resource not only for seeing what is on display at a given auction, but also for immersing yourself in the language and art history of the exhibit. An auction catalog is the accompanying booklet of the works for sale and will include the following: newly commissioned detailed photographs of the works in the auction; the estimates and price range at which the work has previously sold; and critical art history on the work for sale. These catalogs have longevity beyond their specific auctions, as they have proven to be key research objects for curators, researchers, and dealers. Indeed, catalogs are the few transparent documents on prices, in addition to providing an index of collectors who have already owned the work.

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