Going, Going, Gone: An Introduction To Art Auction

Water Dance, 1987 by Datuk Ibrahim Hussein

Art is an investment that grows in value and art auctions is where the magic happens with A-list collectors and bidding wars that sets the tone for art enthusiasts.

Even during a pandemic, the art world thrives as there is never a bad time to buy or sell art.

Behind the glitz and drama of art auctions is where a serious business operates, that has centuries of history and practices that always set the tone for the art market at large.

Here’s your guide to everything that happens before the anticipated ‘Sold!’

In Malaysia, there are few auction houses to take note;

  • The Edge Auction which focuses on Malaysian works includes major paintings by top names in the local art scene. Comprehensive information, including auction items, pricing, process, results and term, is available on the website. 
  • KL Lifestyle Art Auction has held over 30 auctions, with a focus on Malaysian art. 
  • Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers was formed in 2008, expanding its portfolio of auction categories from real estate and plant & machinery, to include art. The auctioneer focuses on Malaysian and South East Asian art. 

To kickstart one’s journey as an art bidder, is to register to an auction house using your identification card whereby you can start bidding in person, absentee bid, or through a telephone bid, says Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers (HBAA) Director, Sim Polenn.

“The art pieces can begin from as low as RM1,500 and hit a ceiling of RM1 million or more.  

 “Upon winning a bid, the bidder can either pay upfront for the whole price of the painting by cash on the night of the bid, or take as long as one to two weeks,” he said.

In order to be informed on the auction activities, future buyers will have to register for a mailing list subscription which is available on most auction houses’ websites.

How Art is Presented

Let’s begin with a basic fact: Anyone can view what is on sale and choose to participate. When the hammer comes down, the price of an object has been determined by the people who want it, in full view of the world.

Artwork that are being auctioned off are not a surprise for bidders: everyone knows what paintings are going to be there and open for bidding.

That’s why bidders are allowed to check out the items ahead of time. They can look at an item’s condition, find out what the opening bid may be, and get a general sense of what will be auctioned off.

Moreover, every auction house publishes an online catalogue of works several weeks before a sale, so you can scroll through the images and take advantage of all the information available along with the prices.

Mostly the art pieces that are offered by the auction houses are usually offered by the collectors and are then filtered by the auction house’s appraisers.

Besides individual collectors, there are also corporate buyers in the Malaysian art scene, with interests in art for various purposes, such as investment option, enhancement or even status elevation.

Photo: Datuk Ibrahim Hussein, Beyond the Blues, 2008

HBAA sale of Malaysian and Southeast Asian Art is scheduled on 8 August 2021 and will be led by two exceptional masterpieces by Datuk Ibrahim Hussein titled Water Dance and Beyond The Blues.

 Executed in 1987, Water Dance (Estimate: RM 860,000 – 1,000,000) reflects the graceful, elegant movements of the water dancers. While the blues are calming and soothing to mind and body, the ambiguous bracelet of entangled forms exude a rhythm and sense of movement with a flailing limb or two tracing odd shapes, suggesting a certain purity of relationships.

Beyond The Blues, created in 2008 (Estimate: RM 700,000 – 1,000,000), some may see it as horses galloping through the thick lush grassland / bushes. Such is life, filled with challenges and obstacles, but one will overcome them, striving towards excellence. It is up to the viewer to interpret. While keeping to Datuk Ibrahim’s signature rhythmic lines, much more staccato and static for a calcified underwater silence, he played on a blanket of miasma mist of bluish hues, mysterious with the odd light filtering here and there.

For more information visit www.hbart.com.my for the E-catalogue. 

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