Interesting point from an Economist article on the state of the contemporary art market:
During a recession, vendors retreat from the spectacle of auction for several reasons. First, the auction houses are no longer giving guarantees so private negotiations offer the seller a better sense of control. Second, at least in theory, a work needs two prospective buyers at auction whereas, behind the scenes, one will do. Third, no one wants to appear desperate for cash.
Not surprisingly, then, both Christie’s and Sotheby’s are reporting a robust private trade. Bill Ruprecht, Sotheby’s chief executive, asserts that their private sales have not declined at all, while Ed Dolman, Christie’s chief executive, affirms that private sales are up since the beginning of the year compared to January to May of last year.
Do art dealers' commissions differ in private vs. public (auctioned) sales?