The inimitable Kishore Singh explains in the Business Standard why neophyte art collectors prefer to buy at auction instead of from galleries. As always, the advice is based upon the experience of Indian collectors but applies to collectors around the world. Singh’s comments also highlight the fact that auction houses are the only regulated part of the art world. That suggests the growth of interest in art will require a broader basis of trust with the art trade itself:
From their perspective, it makes a lot of sense for neophytes to begin testing their skills at an auction. While the mandatory reading up and visits to galleries remain essential for familiarising with the territory of art and artists, an auction comes with its own inherent advantages, not least of which is that the effort of selecting the best, most representational works from a particular genre, or period, or of an artist, has already been done by the experts at the auction house.
Contrary to popular belief, no prestigious auction house accepts all works consigned to it for selling. […] This means that authorities on art have already undertaken the selection, saving you a lot of time and effort that such a process would otherwise have cost you — even with the help of diligent dealers.
While it can be argued that not all works at any given auction are iconic works, you can be sure that they do take the blood, sweat and tears out of the business of collecting (though some might argue that it is precisely this that makes it so much more interesting for them).
Equally important, or some might suggest even more so, is the paperwork the auction house would have undertaken to ensure that its bonafides are kosher. It would establish provenance, and have all the required papers to document the line of ownership, any history of the work that is significant, and take the guesswork out of everything from pricing (what you ultimately pay is another matter) to a condition report, insurance and so on.
Gone, To That Gentleman There . . . (Business Standard)