Charity Art Auctions

ArtInfo has recently looked into the good and bad of charity art auctions. They have asked if they are the place to pick up art bargains, or are they a good place to offload lesser works?

Barbara Guggenheim says “Many charity auctions are put together by companies that sell the charity on the idea that they’re going to auction off Chagalls and Dalis and such, and split the profits with the charity some way,” Guggenheim said. “Those auctions are filled with low-quality material—if not fakes. Other charity auctions are filled with things that collectors want to get rid of, or lesser works by artists who’ve been imposed upon. Because that’s the rule, you shouldn’t expect to find serious material there.” ArtInfo

I wonder how other artists feel about giving to charity auctions? I have been approached by email to give to charity art auctions, but have never agreed to them because I am probably too critical of anything that lands in my inbox. Has anyone had any success/failure with buying or giving works to charity art auctions?

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Manny Ryan says:

    Hi, yes I have participated in an art auction for charity purposes and everything went well. It was in Newcastle, Australia. However not always I trust to an information and people (just like you).

  2. I was involved in an art auction in Canada. ARTINFO describes it well. I more or less off loaded several mediocre paintings. They auctioned for a decent price. I was happy, the charity was happy, and lets hope the buyers were happy. (It should be noted that the buyers are often there just to contribute to the charity. They want to go home with something, anything,and often do. Unfortunately, they are rather taken advantage of.

  3. I work mostly on commission. Every now and then I get a customer who will have me complete the painting and then change their mind (this is why I require at least a 50% deposit when the sketch is approved) Charity auctions make for the perfect win-win situation in this case. I don’t have to find storage and they get a good price for a worthy cause.
    Too many scams out there, though. I don’t think I’d consider sending anything out if I didn’t know the cause was legit.

  4. The Whitechapel Art Gallery in London holds a genuine auction, run by Christie’s or Sotherby’s once a year. Artists who were helped to start their careers by this gallery donate works as a sort of “thank you” to keep the old place going. Damien Hurst is one who donates.

  5. paintandsculpt says:

    I live in an art community and am asked for art for charity dozens of times each year. I only donate to local organizations of which I know personally. I really appreciate it when the organization gives the artist a percentage of the sale price since these never result in further sales. It would help if the IRS allowed more than the cost of materials.

  6. Hi everybody! Every auction is different, I guess. Whenever we wanted to do something for charity the policy of our internet gallery and auction,, has been not to approach artists to give their work for charity to give money out from OUR, gallery/auction profits and artists receive their compensation as agreed in full.

  7. One problem with these auctions are attendees who are searching for bargains. Not everyone is there in the spirit of charity. This can hurt the credibility of an artist who has worked hard to achieve and maintain a decent price structure.

  8. I am sure that there are pros and cons for donating to charity auctions like everything else in life, but I have and will continue to do so. It gives me another outlet for my work while helping a good cause.

    I always opt for getting a percentage of the sale price … so its not a totally altruistic an act on my part! But I only set a reserve if the piece cost me a lot in framing or materials.

    And I would not offer any piece for auction that I was less than happy seen in public with my name on it!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’m both an artist, and I give in excess of $2,000 cash each year in sponsorships and donations to my charity. As an organizer of its successful charity art auction for five consecutive years, I find it disheartening that artists would demand a percentage or offload inferior works. Thank goodness we have a different breed of artists in my region who are not only generous, but also interested in bettering lives in the community that supports them and their art.

    When people go to auctions, OF COURSE they are looking for bargains! Every nincompoop knows that’s the point of an auction; to compete for the work(s) you want but to pay only as much as is necessary to acquire it.

    The novel notion that selling your art at auction dilutes the value of your work for collectors in specious. Here’s what artists don’t want to hear: Art with merit and art that people would like to have hanging in their homes, sells for excellent prices — usually WELL OVER the declared retail value. Crap either doesn’t sell at all or can only generate bids under the declared retail value. Your art is only worth what people are willing to pay. In a silent or live auction, if your “$100 piece” can’t generate a bid over $25, it’s obviously not worth $100 to the 500 or so people in the room, and you might want to rethink how “valuable” your work is.

  10. Anonymous says:

    God gave you your gift freely. You should feel grateful that you were blessed with such a wonderful talent. Giving your art freely to a charity that helps people who are suffering is a wonderful way to say “thank you.”

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