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Year End

How 2020 Changed the Auction Market for the Better

To say that this year was unexpected would be an understatement. But to argue it was all bad would be very wrong.

The auction floor of 2020.

The auction floor of 2020.

Illustration: Klaus Kremmerz

For the past 250 years, art auctions have stuck to the same format with an almost astonishing fidelity.

People who want to sell art (consignors) give it to an auction house, which prints a catalogue with some fancy language about the artwork and then sends it to prospective clients (bidders). On the day of the auction, the room is filled with these bidders and/or bidders’ representatives such as art advisers, art dealers, and auction specialists. One by one, works sell, or don’t sell, until the auction is over. And then it repeats.