The Business of Art: Markets, Auctions, Appraisals, Galleries: Art Auctions

An introduction to resources for the buying and selling, the pricing and valuing of art.

Art Auction Catalogs

Sotheby's auction photograph

Auction catalogs represent an important source for various types of information on works of art and artists. They can provide provenance information or a "genealogy" of a work of art. Detailed illustrations and descriptions of a work of art are usually available. They can also help to identify a particular object sold at auction. As a group they can help to trace trends and taste of a particular time period or collector.

Use the KU Library Catalog to learn what catalogs are owned by KU. Check the name of the auction house, e.g., Sotheby's or Christies, and a title like [Catalogues of sales]. Although KU no longer subscribes to any of the auction catalog series (the subscriptions were cancelled in January 2009 due to budget restrictions), the library owns thousands of such publications dating primarily from the 1970s through 2008 and from the auction houses of Sotheby's, Christies, and Phillips.

Due to overcrowding in the Art & Architecture Library, the auction catalogs are housed in a locked area in Anschutz Library; patrons wanting to use the older catalogs should consult the library catalog to determine if KU owns the specific publication and then ask for assistance from the Art & Architecture Library staff to have the catalog retrieved for their use.  

Annual Indexes to Auctions

KU owns some annual compilations of auction prices that are organized by artist's name with the pieces sold during the year listed in alphabetical order; data elements include artist's name, name of artwork, dimensions, medium, signature, auction information, price realized.

Historical Auction Catalogs

Online Pricing Information

Auction Houses

Some auction houses host free "open house" days where visitors can bring in their artworks and have auction-house staff members share their expertise. Other houses allow owners to mail their information with a photograph, and their experts will respond. Below is a list of some of the largest auction houses in the U.S.

Current Auction Information

Websites for the various auction houses will usually provide a calendar of upcoming auctions as well as auction results from recent sales; some may also produce the entire catalog for an upcoming sale online. Both Christies and Sotheby's now allow online searching of upcoming and past auctions.

Journals are another good source of information on upcoming auctions.

Art & Antiques issue cover 

Case Studies