Christie’s raises buyer’s premium

Christie’s Auction House in New York will become an even more expensive market after March 11, but some with ties to the art community believe that the rise in prices will not affect the local market.

Jean A. O’Brien, senior appraiser at J.A. O’Brien Associates in Prairie Village, Kan., said the increase of buyers’ premiums– the fees charged to buyers – will not affect her work as an appraiser.

“Each job is different and the rise in buyers’ premiums is just one of the factors one has to take into consideration when calculating value,” O’Brien said.  “I believe that Christie’s is attempting to cover increasing operating costs and that eventually the other major auction houses will follow suit.”

The famed auction house is raising its buyer’s premiums for the first time in five years.  The current premiums are 25 percent for the first $50,000, 20 percent from $50,001 to $1 million, and 12 percent on values above.  On March 11, the premiums will rise to 25 percent for the first $75,000, 20 percent on $75,001 to $1.5 million and 12 percent on the rest as reported by the New York Times.

Jefferson Blair, chairperson for the Kansas City Artists Coalition’s annual art auction, said since the coalition is a non-profit organization and the artists donated their work, there were no buyers’ premiums and the increase at Christie’s will not affect his work, nor will it affect the buyers at Christie’s.

“Art can go up in value and I don’t think the increase will change the willingness to buy at Christie’s,” said Blair.

It is standard practice for opposing houses to also increase prices when one auction house raises its premiums.  However, according to Forbes, Sotheby’s and other larger auction houses have yet to match the increased rates of Christie’s.

As to whether or not local auction houses will raise premiums, O’Brien said it is not absolute since most set their own fees and adjust to be competitive.

“Auction houses usually charge comparable fees, and the smaller regionals usually keep an eye on what others are charging and then follow suit,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien thinks that the effect on local art markets today will be minimal and said she does not think large auction houses’ price increases will make the Kansas collector less inclined to buy an item at auction.

“At Christie’s, buyers purchase art for prestige or as an investment,” Blair said.  “At local auctions, people see a wide variety of artists and purchase what they like.”


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