What Does an Art Auction House Specialist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Skills, & More

An auction house employee holds Pablo Picasso's 'Femme assise pres d' une fenetre,' 1932, which will be auctioned in the Sotheby's 'Impressionist and Modern Art' sale on February 5, 2013.
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An art auction house specialist works at an auction house. Auction house specialists appraise, research, catalog, and market 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 bring in new clients and maintain relationships with existing ones so that clients 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. It lists salary figures for art archivists, curators, and other museum workers instead. 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 the area of specialization and geographical location. Art archivists and curators and other museum workers earned the following 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)

Education, Training, & Certification

To succeed as an art auction house specialist, you'll need a minimum level of education and experience.

  • Education: Art auction house specialists should have, at a minimum, an undergraduate degree in art.
  • Experience: 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'll need the following skills and traits:

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

    Job Outlook

    The BLS predicts jobs for archivists and related professionals in the area of art to grow about 14% 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 current job listings and internship opportunities on their websites.

    CREATE YOUR RESUME AND COVER LETTER

    Produce 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: