One, Two, Three, Sold!

Speculators and wealthy collectors compete in fancy salerooms for the most significant artworks to market, providing entertainment for the spectators. As a salesperson, auctioneers impact the whole art market with their success or failure. As a result, the public’s confidence in the auction sector is eroded. Auctions are exciting to watch even if you’re not bidding, especially when record prices and well-known bidders are involved. When it comes to an art auction in Australia, the baroque logic might appear to be a mystery to those inexperienced with it. Auction terms are defined in this glossary, which we’ve created to aid your understanding of the process.

The event’s emcee is the auctioneer. British showmen (or women) often employ humour and dramatics to entice reluctant buyers even at the most sumptuous auction houses. The trademark styles of the auctioneers tend to be more edgy and direct with the younger generation of art collectors (sometimes in the manner of Guy Fieri).


Auctioneers use hammers to announce sales like conductors’ batons and judge gavels. When the hammer hits the ground with such a loud and clear sound, it signals the end of the auction.

The hammer strikes the auction block as it is hurled at the auctioneer’s stand. A piece of art might be referred to as “going on the block” even if it is displayed by white-gloved auctioneers behind the speaker or on a screen in front of the auctioneer.

Predetermined indications rather than a snobby paddle are preferred by many high-flying buyers when communicating with the auctioneer. Bidding expressions range from the tiniest nod to a full-fledged conversation.

The “lot” refers to the workup for grabs in a particular round of bidding. Using the word “a lot” refers to a collection of several works.

A rough estimate

As a bidding house’s best estimation, it appears in the bidding catalogues for the auctioned works of art. There are low and high estimates in the format “$14million – $18 million” or a variation thereof. Estimates are provided for the sale of individual pieces and the collection. When an object “unrelentingly hurdled its high number,” or “sputtered and died just short of its low figure,” in art auction reports, journalists can get a laugh out of it.

As long as the bidding does not exceed the reserve price, an auction house will be allowed to sell artwork.

Collectors and other interested parties receive an eye-catching, professionally-created glossy catalogue from the auction house, which serves as an incentive to get people excited about bidding on pieces of art, as well as an estimate of their value. Experts in art history and photography are brought in to explain why work is worth so much money to put out a million-dollar catalogue for a major auction.

On the cover of the magazine

On this lot, the auction house displays the most anticipated item of art, which is generally a painting or sculpture.

A buyer’s premium, which can rank from 10% to 20% of the final sale price, is charged by auction houses. The compensation varies from business to company and from item to item. In most cases, the final price listed in auction reports and records includes the buyer’s premium.

An auctioneer may avoid paying the seller’s commission if they plan to purchase a consignment, which is the money an auction company obtains from the consignor (or negotiated down).

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