5 Reasons Why You Should Never Sell Your Art on Auction Websites


art on auction websites

Have you ever been tempted to put some of your art on auction websites?

Or have you ever put your art on auction websites and wondered why it didn't sell or went for such a low price?

If  you've been thinking about selling your art on auction websites or even if you have tried it in the past, there are some important things you need to know.

I am going to be very honest and upfront with you and tell you that for almost four years I sold my art on one of these auction websites.  I know, I'm a little embarrassed to tell you this.

Of course, I can't tell you which site it was because I don't want to make any enemies here.  But I'm sure you know the one I'm talking about.

In those four years I became kind of an online auction expert.  I learned a lot about selling on this kind of platform. It was a huge learning experience for me. But knowing what I now know about auction websites, I would never go back to selling on that kind of platform ever again.

And I'm here to tell you that if you are a serious artist hoping to build a lifelong career you should stay away from these kinds of sites.

Here are my 5 top reasons why you should never sell your art on auction websites:

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This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Monika Dickson

    Hi Gary,
    That was a very interesting and informative post. I enjoyed that you shared some of your own stories and even the ones that didn’t end up so pretty. You are courageous and have earned my respect! Have a super day.

  2. The Haggus Society

    Actually, Gary, I know several artists who are making a killing and becoming collectible using Ebay. My thinking is that they don’t necessarily flood the market with cheap, or use a settle for less strategy when placing work on the Ebay market. Sometimes yes, there are smaller cheaper works. The artists I know do show in some serious galleries around the nation. I think what makes them successful is having a plan in place for both channels of their businesses, the more conventional art venues and the electronic realm.

    One common thread between these guys is that all roads lead back to a stand alone web site. And they limit what is available on Ebay. Along with a pricing structure for auction and buy now.

    That being said, you do raise some good observations. I think it unwise to jump into this type of auction market without a plan/strategy that includes support for the various channels of one’s marketing mix.

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Thanks for your comments. I think that having your own website or blog is by far the better strategy. Even if you are managing to make a few hundred dollars on a painting on eBay (which is rare) this is still much less than you would expect to get from a respected gallery. My paintings in New York City galleries usually start at around $2000.00 and no less. That’s a big price difference and I am not willing to settle for less on a cheap web site. Thanks again and your comments are always appreciated.

  3. Heather

    Hi Gary, Thanks so so much for this….and to everyone else for the comments. It’s really interesting and very informative. I’ve just joined the community but have to say t’s great and the blogs, articles and comments are so on the mark. Big thanks everyone! And have a great weekend whatever you do :))

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Hi Heather- And welcome aboard. Glad you are enjoying it. And like you, I hope everyone has a great weekend, whatever they decide to do.

  4. Bonnie Coad

    Hi there, good Blog! I think a lot of what your saying is true. I must admit to selling a few works on an Action site over the past few years but never cheaply, my strategy was to hold on to my work if I didn’t make a sale and I always kept my prices stable across the board. I wasn’t doing it to stay alive as I also work full time so I could afford to stick to my guns, being an emerging artist is hard work, getting your name out there takes time, a sale is a sale and if you keep your prices stable auction sites are OK in my opinion. Your blog has some very very good points though!! 🙂

  5. Delmer

    Given the fact that groups like Deja, and Google have essentially kept EVERYTHING that has ever existed on the web, the trail will always lead back to “that” auction site if someone really wants to try hard to follow it.. just like court cases, DUI convictions, divorces, custoy details, marriage licences, property taxes/value etc are all online for others to see whenever they want… if someone wants to judge your art’s value by typing your name in a search then a lot of artists have a lot to worry about. Can you imagine if we were able to see how many of them were on anti depressants? Google’s search history for me, for example, includes the medical issues I’m hiding from my employer. Going online (even what you are doing right now with this blog) always has a chance of making your future list of regrets.

    On another note.. given the care with which you thoughtfully articulate your advice.. I’m curious sir if you would put your thoughts to paper on this:

    How to price your artwork?


    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Thanks for your comments. And I agree with you, everything that has ever been on the web is still out there. And it’s an interesting comment and idea you have proposed that anything we are doing now on the web could possibly become something of a future regret. I guess that’s a chance we all have to take. On the question of writing an article about pricing artwork, I have written such an article. You will find it in this blog and it is titled “Pricing your artwork: Stay out of the bargain basement.” I may be doing more blogging on this subject in the future, so keep checking back. Thanks again.

    2. isb63

      Is there a problem with an artist–or anyone, for that matter–being on “anti-depressants”?

      1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

        Thanks for your comments. Of course there is nothing wrong with an artist or anyone being on anti-depressants. I think the point he was making was that it seems that everything we do is now on public record for all to see. It’s like we have no privacy anymore. I think that was the point he was making and he just used the anti-depressants as an example of that.

      2. Delmer

        You reinforced my point. You are a great example of someone who read something on a blog, and interpreted it in a negative way and reacted to it. This is the risk we take when we give people information… There is nothing wrong with being on anti depressants of course (in this country, during the present time at least), but that is to be determined by each individual person who learns that about you. I might like my artist’s work created without his senses being dulled. I might not buy someone’s art if I learn they support CODE PINK. You never know if something you reveal is going to hurt your sales later.

        Now here’s some context you can use to filter things I say… I have purchased art from that auction site. I love the crazy cat lady series in particular. Will you judge me? It’s a risk I’ll take… I may deserve to be judged.

  6. Ivan Krutoyarov

    In late 2010 I returned to painting after a 20 year break. I believe that fate had given me one more chance to realize my dream. During this year I participated in 4 exhibitions in Moscow, became a member of the Union of Artists of Moscow region. That’s a lot or a little? It seems to me a little. It still does not give me the opportunity to sell work to fully engage in painting. Painting does not allow me to make and there is only a hobby. Very great desire to sell a lot of work for a low price to make a “jerk” and deal only with painting.
    I read this story with great interest. In the next year will be my exhibition at the art gallery of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. I hope that this event will be a good stepping stone for my career of artist. In the meantime, can only tolerate so as not to sell my work cheaply.
    Sorry for bad English

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Hi Ivan- Congratulations on your show at the Council of Europe. Let us know how it turns out.

  7. Brian

    Thank you for the article. It was pretty eye-opening.

    I’ve heard of artists whose work has been copied and put up for auction on ebay without their consent. So I’ve stayed clear of auction sites myself.

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      HI Brian,
      Thanks for the comments. That’s an interesting point about the work being copied and promoted without consent. Thanks again.

  8. Matthew Hamblen

    As an online seller for many years, I have to take a slightly different stance, Gary. Everything you say is ABSOLUTELY true, especially with regard to Ebay, but nowadays, there is the print selling option, or even charging a NICE price on sites like Etsy. I’m surely not saying it’ll work, but one can do it and possibly even succeed.

    As well, the part that isn’t covered and I assume is likely somewhere in another article is the fact that one CAN sell art inexpensively online and actually make a living (such as I do), whereas cracking the NYC gallery scene to get to the same goal just isn’t a credible option for most folks,

    Just my 2 cents. I think there are two different roads to travel now, one obviously much more accessible and credible than the other, but over time, I would hope the two (gallery and online) will become one. It’s all about selling art at the end of the day.

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Hi Matt- I agree with you that online art sales is a very good option for most artists.

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