Auction Advice: Phillips CEO Michael McGinnis

The boss of an auction house weighs in on how to buy painting, jewelry, and decorative arts at those intimidating auctions.

The old adage “You get what you pay for” certainly holds true in the art world. “The advantage of buying at an auction house is that the works have been edited and filtered through the art market and have already developed a secondary market, which, by definition, means it has a track record,” says Michael McGinnis, CEO of the Phillips auction house. “Since there are hundreds of galleries, it is daunting to identify the one artist out of a thousand whose work may increase in value.”

Although prices have skyrocketed in recent years, major auction houses hold daytime sales that bring new buyers to the market, like Phillips’s “Under the Influence” auction on September 19 in New York City. It is a special season-opening sale at which prices start as low as $5,000 and go up to around $100,000 or more. Awe-inspiring prices are typically reserved for evening sales. 

McGinnis, who is also the worldwide head of Contemporary Art for Phillips, enjoys integrating art and design experiences by showcasing home furnishings, photography, and fine art simultaneously to capture the zeitgeist of a particular era. Still, McGinnis, who lives in Bedford with his wife, Courtney, and three young daughters, says that one of the best things you can do when purchasing art at an auction is to buy what you love. After all, unlike stocks, art is something you get to enjoy every day. 

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Paintings & Sculpture


Decorative Arts

Jill Brooke attended countless jewelry and art auctions while working at CNN and at numerous magazines. Her new book, Bullish Not Bullied: The Need to Say No, will be out in September.

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