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How to Talk Like a Collector

If you are going to join the world of art collecting, it's time to start picking up the lingo! Read on to learn 30 terms you may not know, but are likely to come across when buying art.

Works by Mel Bochner exhibited in Marian Goodman Gallery, Aspen


  1. Appraisal: An evaluation of an artwork’s market or insurance value

  2. Artists Proof: Artist’s proofs are the first prints made in an edition to check printing quality and color. When offered for sale, they are signed ‘A/P’ and frequently listed at a higher price than the rest of the edition prints.

  3. Artist Resale Rights (ARR, ‘Droit de Suite’): Entitle living artists, and the estates of artists who have died within the last 70 years, a royalty each time their work is sold in the EU or UK. **Right subject to certain conditions and not applicable in the United States.

  4. Authentic: Describes the qualities of an original work of art as opposed to a reproduction, fake or forgery.

  5. Biennale: Academic, rather than commercial, art fairs that takes place every two years

  6. Blue Chip Art: Refers to artworks created by the most widely recognized and successful artists in the marketplace (i.e. Kaws, Basquiat, Rothko, etc...)

  7. Bought-In: A lot offered at auction that either fails to sell, or fails to receive a bid above the reserve price, so it is purchased from the consignor by the auction house.

  8. Brick-and-Click: Gallery with both a physical (brick and mortar) location and an online presence

  9. Burned: A lot offered at public auction that fails to sell and consequently takes a hit to its perceived value and attractiveness.

  10. Buyer's Premium: Percentage of the hammer price paid to an auction house, in addition to the hammer price. **Generally between 10-25% of the hammer price.

  11. Catalogue Raisonné: Detailed listing of all the known works by an artist.

  12. Certificate of Authenticity (CoA): Document offered with a Bill of Sale to confirm the authenticity of an artwork being purchased, **Issued by artist or their estate.

  13. Commission:

  14. Condition Report: Records the physical condition of a work of art and lists any damages to the artwork (and/or the frame if applicable). This protects a buyer from undisclosed damages, and protects a seller from false damage claims.

  15. Consignor: A seller who offers a lot at auction.

  16. Due Diligence: Steps taken by a professional in order to satisfy a legal requirement, especially in buying or selling something. **In art, due diligence usually requires examination of legal ownership, authenticity, and condition of an artwork.

  17. Edition: Frequently referring to various printing processes, artworks that are part of a series are know as editions. Editions can be "limited" to a specific number of works or "open" without a set amount.

  18. Estimate: Price range an auction house believes a lot will sell for

  19. Flipping: A practice popularized by art investors, flipping artwork occurs when buyers purchase a work with the intent to resell for a profit.

  20. Guarantee: In order to remove the risk of an artwork being burned at auction and incentivise the seller to consign a work, auction houses can guarantee to purchase a consignment. A guarantee can be posted by an auction house, by a third party or jointly between an auction house and a third party.

  21. Hammer Price: The final bid on a lot accepted by an auctioneer before the gavel. **Does not include taxes or Buyers Premium.

  22. Lot: A single unit offered for sale at an auction. **Generally a single artwork or object, but can consist of multiple items offered jointly.

  23. Primary Art Market: Artwork sold for the first time. **Generally sold directly from an artist or from a representing gallery.

  24. Private Sale: Discreet sales occurring between buyers and sellers and often negotiated by galleries or dealers. **While auction houses specialize in public sales (auctions), many houses have launched private sales departments.

  25. Provenance Report: Records past transaction and exhibition history to authenticate an artwork and verify legal ownership.

  26. Reserve: The minimum amount of money a consignor is willing to accept for their lot.

  27. Retrospective: An exhibition that overviews an artist's work over the course of their career.

  28. Secondary Art Market: Artwork that is resold in the marketplace. **Generally occurs through auction houses, but galleries and dealers can also work in the secondary market.

  29. Valuation: A description and current value of a work of art, often used for insurance, and tax purposes.

  30. White Glove Sale: An auction where every lot offered is sold.


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