What Does an Art Auction House Administrator Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A man holds his hand up while bidding on a work of art inside the auction house Christie's
••• Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Besides doing basic office administration, an art auction house administrator works in three main areas: sales, shipping, and inventory, in order to manage the artworks that will be consigned, handled, or sold at auction. They work closely with other departments in the auction house such as shipping, operations, and museum services.

Art Auction House Administrator Duties & Responsibilities

The duties of an art auction house administrator can vary according to the needs of a particular auction house. However, this position generally requires the ability to do the following work:

  • General office tasks
    • Answering phones, taking messages, and making appointments
    • Writing and sending correspondence
    • Filing documents
  • Sales tasks
    • Maintaining consignment reports and client accounts
    • Staying vigilant with compliance
    • Receipting property and keeping accurate records
    • Following up with post-auction sales, insurance claims, and purchase orders
  • Shipping tasks
    • Coordinating domestic and international shipping and delivery arrangements
    • Arranging necessary import, export, and customs forms
    • Coordinating shipping for restoration or authenticity purposes
    • Following up on deliveries and receipting incoming property
  • Inventory management tasks
    • Collaborating with registrars to manage property details
    • Following up on unsold works or aging inventory
    • Coordinating with catalog and exhibition deadlines

Art auction house administrators maintain the daily management of an office. They handle general client inquiries, such as correspondence, phone calls, letters, occasional walk-in clients, and appointment scheduling. They may also participate in project work as requested by management.

Administrators also attend training courses and administrator meetings as required and assist with other exhibition and sale-related duties, including printing saleroom notices and labels and providing general exhibition support.

Art Auction House Administrator Salary

Payscale.com provides salary information for administrator jobs at two large auction houses: Christie's and Sotheby's. Department administrators at Sotheby's earn the following:

  • Median Annual Salary: $46,291 ($22.26/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $64,000 ($30.77/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $34,000 ($16.35/hour)

Source: Payscale.com, 2019

Business administrators at Christie's earn the following:

  • Median Annual Salary: $53,118 ($25.54/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $81,000 ($38.94/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $36,000 ($17.31/hour)

Source: Payscale.com, 2019

Education, Training, & Certification

To become an art auction house administrator, you will need the following education and experience:

  • Academia: Even though an art auction house administrator does office work, the position requires working with fine art. Typically, a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history is required, as well as having the ability to discuss, write about, and understand art.
  • Training: Most positions will require you to have one to two years of administrative experience. Sotheby's offers training opportunities to those who qualify. The company features a Floater Program for recent graduates that allows them to work in different departments and roles within an auction house. Americans for the Arts also offers training and professional development for aspiring art administrators.

    Those who work at auction houses have a strong interest in art, are educated in art history, and have interned at auction houses and galleries. Administrators should have a good understanding of the business and have a high interest in a career working in an auction house.

    Art Auction House Administrator Skills & Competencies

    To be successful in this position, you will need to have the following skills:

    • Superior organization skills: The ability to work on several tasks simultaneously while also meeting constant deadlines.
    • Tech savvy: The ability to use Microsoft Word, Outlook and Excel, and the auction house’s database management system
    • Verbal and written communication skills: The ability to speak and write clearly and accurately when communicating with colleagues and clients on the phone and in writing emails and reports
    • Strong interest and love of art: The ability to appreciate and understand art and art history

      Job Outlook

      The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide a separate category for art auction house administrators. However, it does have information on secretaries and administrative assistants. The employment outlook for that profession is expected to decline 5% up to 2026. Job availability will likely be due to others advancing in or moving out of the profession.

      Work Environment

      Art auction house administrators primarily work in an office environment in art galleries and auction houses. Their work may also require some travel to attend and assist at auctions.

      Work Schedule

      Administrators work full-time, which may include working at night or on weekends to assist with special exhibitions and previews.

      How to Get the Job

      APPLY

      Look at resources such as Indeed and Glassdoor for the latest job postings. These sites also provide helpful tips for writing resumes and cover letters, as well as planning for and mastering interviews.

      Many auction houses, such as Sotheby's, Christie's and Bonhams, post employment opportunities on their websites. Job applicants can typically upload their resumes and application forms via the auction house’s website, or alternatively, send by email or post.

      Auction house job applicants are usually required to submit an application form, a cover letter, and a resume for the position for which they are applying.

      FIND AN INTERNSHIP PROGRAM

      Look for an internship program in your area. Heritage Auctions has an internship program. Christie's has an Early Careers Program that includes paid internships.

      Comparing Similar Jobs

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