The Charity Auction: A Wise Investment?


Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons and Porschla Coleman at (Red) Auction.

Do champagne, schmoozing, and irresistibly good deals on works by well-established artists all for a good cause seem too good to be true?  Perhaps it is.  Celebrity studded charity auctions are increasingly popular and covered by the mainstream media, but is the art up for auction a wise investment?  Does it differ in quality from a traditional Sotheby’s or Christie’s auction?  In the August issue of Art + Auction Lindsay Pollock examines the charity auction craze, good and bad, in her article, “Charity Cases.”

Per the article, dealers and artists are loathe to see works donated to charity auctions immediately turned around and resold or “flipped” for profit.  Another problem is the low incentive for artists to donate their best work and the slight stigma that a work that has done the charity auction rounds might carry.  Dealer Ed Winkleman cautions, “I wouldn’t recommend buying an entire collection from benefits…the work the artists are willing to donate is generally not their strongest.”  Art advisor Wendy Cromwell adds, “coming from a benefit doesn’t ding the art, but it isn’t a great provenance.”  

Not very encouraging bits of advice for budding collectors inspired by the egalitarian atmosphere at charity auctions.  The bottom line is that many nonprofits couldn’t survive without the charity auctions that they organize and it is a great venue to get your feet wet in the art scene.  It is wise to bid on what you love and what you can afford and not worry about the return because it is ultimately an investment in a good cause, which is all that should matter.

2 Responses to “The Charity Auction: A Wise Investment?”

  1. I donate art regularly to non-profits. They love to ask – but NEVER once have I received a thank you. They need to think how to make this a win/win – for both the charity and the artist.

  1. 1 Pages tagged "charity"

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