How to Research a Work of Art

Before Bidding on it at Auction

The third in my series of articles written in collaboration with eBay helps introduce their new live auctions-- auctions that take place simultaneously on eBay and at established American bricks & mortar auction houses. These articles talk about various aspects of bidding, buying inspecting and researching art at auction, no matter where those auctions may be taking place or what the circumstances of the sales might be. This article has to do with researching art and artists and how to interpret the information you find....


At eBay live auctions or at any auction anywhere, it's always good to know what you're bidding on before you bid on it. If what you're bidding on is a work of art, certain information which may or may not be included in the item description is always good to know, and may well influence the amount you're willing to pay. That information mainly has to do with facts about the artist's career, the characteristics of the art itself, and where that art's been over the course of its lifetime.

To begin with, it's always good to know basic biographical information about the artist. Find out whether they're included in standard artist reference books, surveys, encyclopedias or online artist databases and if yes, read up on his or her career. Artists whose careers are documented in standard references are often referred to as "listed," or significant enough to be written about. In your online searches, you might also come across websites dedicated to the artist, names of galleries that have exhibited the artist or handled their art, and other types of useful information.

Whatever you find, read up on the artist's career, learn what types of art they specialize in, and what their major accomplishments are. What time periods in the artist's career do collectors prefer the most? Do they prefer early works, later works, or art that focuses on particular events in the artist's life? What subject matters get written about the most? Which subjects or compositions do collectors like the most? What types of art sell for the most money at auction? Which sell for the least? Answers to all of these questions help you figure out how much to bid....

To read the complete article, go here.

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