The next time you are
in London or New York, as well as trailing round the usual
museums and other tourist attractions, why don't you take
the opportunity to visit an auction house? Many people
don't attend auctions because they believe typical lots
are paintings that go for millions of dollars. In fact,
the average successful bid for the 110,000 or so items
auctioned at Sotheby's each year is about $16,800 and
80% of all items are sold for less than $5,000. Auctions
are part of life and they should be enjoyed, not shunned.
Everyone is familiar
with the classic auction scene in which the auctioneer
bangs his gavel to indicate the successful bid. Auctions
are a simple, traditional way of selling works of art.
Various people wish to sell works of art, the works are
gathered together, an open auction is held on a certain
day and each item is sold to whoever makes the highest
When they think of Japanese buyers, many people tend to
recall the purchases of high-profile impressionist paintings
at stratospheric prices during the era of the bubble economy.
The long history of Japanese collectors is not well known.
Connoisseurs in Japan have been collecting impressionist
works for at least a century. The passion for impressionist
paintings persists to this day among Japanese collectors.
In addition, modern and contemporary paintings, jewelry,
art nouveau, art deco, and oriental art are popular at
present. Japanese buyers' interests are becoming more
diverse. For most aspiring collectors, it's usually best
to start with prints since they tend to be more affordable
The overseas art market has held up well, but buyers are
more discriminating than they were during the bubble years.
The price difference between top-tier works and the rest
has widened. Although collectors are more discerning in
their selection of works, they are willing to pay high
prices for works of exceptional quality, regardless of
the field. Indeed, first-class works of art have been
commanding very high prices at auction, sometimes even
exceeding those paid during the bubble.
A work of art sold at auction may not reappear on the
market for a very long time. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
to buy creates a compelling tension. Prospective buyers
have to decide their bids in split seconds and the pleasure
of making a successful bid for a coveted work is truly
memorable. The fascinating drama one experiences at an
auction can be found nowhere else.