What Does an Art Auction House Specialist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Skills, & More

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
••• Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

An art auction house specialist works at an auction house appraising, researching, cataloging, and marketing the type of art they specialize in. The specialist has a deep understanding of, and a great deal of interest in, the type of art they're responsible for. They work with clients on all aspects of the auction process.

Art Auction House Specialist Duties & Responsibilities

This position generally requires the ability to do the following tasks:

  • Examine and conduct research on works of art
  • Write condition reports, catalog blurbs, notes, and descriptions
  • Advise clients on the quality of their collection and on auction strategies, such as which pieces to sell and which to allow to appreciate in value before selling
  • Communicate with other art experts
  • Assist with publishing an auction catalog
  • Build relationships with clients

Art auction house specialists help clients prepare their collections for auction in many different ways. They frequently travel to collectors' homes to evaluate their works of art. They set reserves for pieces and work on the marketing strategy for the collection. After the auction is over, they may help process sales and unsold lots.

Specialists help bring in new clients and maintain relationships with existing ones, so that clients will remain loyal to the art house when they want to sell other pieces.

Art Auction House Specialist Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't cite salary figures specifically for art auction house specialists, but art archivists and curators and other museum workers earned the following median salaries in 2018:

  • Median Annual Salary: $48,400 ($23.27/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $86,480 ($41.58/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $27,190 ($13.07/hour)

A key difference between those jobs and art auction house specialists is, the former work for museums, governments, or educational institutions. Pay for art auction house specialists varies according to area of specialization and geographical location.

Education, Training, & Certification

Art auction house specialists should have, at a minimum, an undergraduate degree in art. Having several years of work experience in the world of art is often required and can include gallery or museum work, archival work for an artist, or an internship in an auction house.

Art Auction House Specialist Skills & Competencies

To become a successful art auction house specialist, you should have the following skills and traits:

  • Passionate: Art specialists should be incredibly passionate about their area of specialization. For example, they would enjoy finding a particularly valuable piece in a client's collection and sharing their excitement with the client.
  • Knowledgable: They should be experts in their area of specialization, with both depth and breadth of knowledge.
  • Good communicator: They need to be able to communicate well in person and via phone and email with clients. They should also have good writing skills.
  • Marketing and market savvy: They must be able to figure out the best way to sell various pieces of art as well as determine whether the market is a good one for getting the highest prices.

    Job Outlook

    The BLS predicts jobs for archivists and related professionals in the area of art to grow about 14 percent from 2016 to 2026. That's faster than the average for all occupations.

    Work Environment

    Art auction house specialists are constantly surrounded by beautiful objects. They must travel frequently, so their time is divided between the auction house and the homes and offices of clients.

    Work Schedule

    Art specialists may put in long hours, including evenings and weekends. They also work according to the schedule of auctions.

    How to Get the Job

    INTERNSHIPS AND JOB OPENINGS

    Major art auction houses often post their current job listings and internship opportunities on their websites.

    CREATE YOUR RESUME AND COVER LETTER

    Work hard on producing an effective resume and cover letter that strongly present your qualifications and enthusiasm for the job.

    REHEARSE COMMONLY ASKED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

    HR representatives and hiring managers often ask the same types of questions during interviews. Review the most commonly asked questions and good responses to them.

    Comparing Similar Jobs

    People interested in becoming art auction house specialists might also consider the following jobs. The figures provided are median annual salaries:

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018