Crunch Time

Tatler Hong Kong|June 2020

Crunch Time
Lusting over an auction lot? We ask the experts how best to achieve success when that alluring item goes under the hammer
Rachel Duffell

Auction houses carry a wide range of items including antiquities, old master paintings, contemporary and modern art, jewellery, watches and wine, with each lot assessed by an in-house specialist. Anything from works by acclaimed artists to one-off jewels to items with unsurpassed provenance can come up at auction, but it’s a particularly popular way to sell rare items and pieces whose prices are not easily benchmarked or are highly dynamic. But the auction process, while appealing and increasingly accessible, can be intimidating, with the possibility of rampant bidding and the smash of the gavel before you’ve even grabbed hold of your paddle. So how do you ensure you know what you’re buying—and that you’re the one to take it home?

ALWAYS BE PREPARED

Auction catalogues detailing forthcoming lots are published well in advance of sales and are available to view online. But it’s also worth doing extra research. Besides personal taste, the value of a piece depends on a number of factors, including rarity, beauty, condition, historical importance, freshness to market, provenance and fashion.

“Do your homework,” advises Nicolas Chow, chairman for Asia at Sotheby’s. “Request a condition report to gain a better understanding of the work, read the literature on the artist or period and, if possible, go and study similar pieces in museums.”

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June 2020