CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) - We are still buying pictures as usual at Robert Perera Fine Art during this challenging time. Contact us at or 01590 678230

Buying Fine Art Since 1975   •   T: 01590 678230   •   E:

Guide to Auction Charges

Guide to art auction charges.

A Guide to the UK Auction House Process & Fees in 2024.

A brief history shows that the art auction started in England in the late 17th Century with a painting auction recorded in 1693, in London. Catalogues, as today, were published before the sale date. During the 19th Century the market was driven by new collectors and wealthy industrialists. They purchased artists of the day including J.M.W. Turner. Towards the end of the 19th Century and Early 20th Century, in an art auction, you would see female portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, George Romney and Thomas Gainsborough. Early British fine art auction houses include Sothebys and Christies. Later regional fine art auctions were set up across the country.
The process of selling Fine Art at auction is the same as the early days. You need to find a local or London auction house to value your item. Ship it to the auction and wait. It is important to match your items value and quality to the correct auction house and market.
There can be regional differences and like any service some are better than others and they all charge fees!

Auction Pitfalls

Many of our clients are looking to avoid the high cost of selling items at auction and so find selling to our specialist gallery a more favourable option. Below is an outline of the potential pitfalls of selling in auctions.

Sell Direct Now

We will explain auction commission charges and UK auction costs including fees and how much it costs in real terms. Tax is also included in the selling process including VAT and import duty.

An example of typical Auction Fees in London

What does the seller typically pay at an art auction?

You the seller usually has to pay:

  • 15% sellers comission
  • 20% VAT
  • 1.5% Insurance
  • Catalogue illustration £50-£500

Additional charges at a painting auction:

  • Marketing
  • Shipping and packing
  • Restoration
  • Storage
  • Import customs duties

They may also have a discretionary reserve which means that you give them permission to sell goods typically 10%-20% below the reserve price.

What does the buyer typically pay at auction?

The buyer of your fine art item usually has to pay:

  • 20%-27.5% + 20% VAT Buyers premium
  • Up to 4.95%  + 20% VAT for online bidding
  • 4% Artist Resale Rights if applicable
  • Shipping
  • One is now charging £10 for a condition report.
  • Storage fees if items not collected on time. One auction house charges £30 after three days,  £100 after ten days and then £10 per day!

What does this mean to you?

British auction houses typically take around 50% out of the deal between you and the buyer! You also have to hope that the buyer pays their bill on time at auction, which they don’t always do!

Do auction houses charge if my picture is unsold?

Yes!  Most art auction  houses charge an unsold charge and insurance before you can get your picture back. They often charge storage if you do not collect you item on time.

How long does it take to sell a picture in a fine art auction?

It can take 3-8 months to sell a painting in a specialist auction because the larger auction houses often only have two sales a year with long lead  times.

Is there anything else?

Many of the leading British auction houses sell licences to the photograph they uses for their catalogues, making more revenue from your painting, long after you sold it!
You have normally agreed to this in the small print. Look on the back of fine art greetings cards and see who has provided the image.

Contact Us

Do all pictures sell at in painting auctions?

Not all pictures sell at auction. A sale can depend on many factors. These include : pricing, fashion, rarity, condition, quality, provenance. Other wider factors can include the economy, stock market, current bad news, sporting events and even the weather including heatwaves or snow!

Is my fine art picture black listed?

When a painting is unsold it is usually listed on worldwide art sales databases as an unsold picture, which can be unhelpful to a future sale as it may put off  future potential buyers.

When should I use an art auction?

There are times when auctions are useful particularly if you cannot find a direct buyer for your item. There are also some items which would benefit from an auction arena. These include particularly rare items, museum pieces or where a value cannot be established by other routes.

If this is the case Robert Perera Fine Art can guide you through the process with their experience and market analysis and recommend an auction house that fits your requirements.

Contact Us