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Business & FinanceTechnology & Science

Auction sales of fine art and antiques: traditional forms and hybrid developments

This project studies the interactional organisation of competition and valuation in auction sales, from the conventional, collocated format to and the more recent hybrid ‘live’ format relying on internet platforms. There is a long-standing interest in the social sciences in auctions and auction mechanisms and the ways in which price and value are constituted through social interaction.

Alongside our studies of more traditional, co-present auctions of fine art and antiques, we are exploring the wide-spread deployment and use of the internet to largely replace co-located sales in which people gather to bid for merchandise.

Covid has had a profound effect on these initiatives and the ways in which auctioneers and auction houses conduct sales and potential buyers participate in live auctions. The project addresses how auctioneers in concert and collaboration with colleagues and potential buyers deploy an organisation that enables the efficient, transparent, trustworthy accomplishment of sales by auction.

Our research is focussing on such matters as:

  • the transformation of the ecology of the auction to enable and facilitate the interaction and engagement of remote, on-line, participants;
  • the ways in which auctioneers have configured and adapted their practice and procedures to enable, encourage and coordinate bidding and competition;
  • the impact of these initiatives on the work, professional practice and expertise of auctioneers, saleroom personnel and service providers and operators.

Data consists of video-recordings of ‘live’ auctions and of hybrid auctions broadcasted on platforms, augmented by field studies and interviews of key personnel.

Project status: Ongoing

Principal Investigators