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Buy an artwork on the secondary art market

The art market is segmented into two distinct markets: the first art market and the second art market.

The first art market brings together works put on sale for the first time (galleries, art fairs, art dealers, etc.). The price of the work is set for the first time with the gallery or art dealer based on production costs and at the discretion of the market.When collectors, dealers or galleries put their works back for sale, they pass in the secondary market. Most of the works offered at auctions belong to the secondary market.


  1. Second art market: definition
  2. Actors intervening in the secondary art market
  3. Trends in the secondary art market
  4. To learn more about the art market:

Second art market: definition

As soon as a work of art goes on sale for the second time, it enters the second art market.
The secondary market allows collectors and various players in the art world to resell their works. This transaction generally takes place via an auction house (international houses or French establishments: Christie's, Sotheby's, Artcurial, Tajan, etc.), a gallery or an art dealer, or even over-the-counter.
The artwokrs offered for sale can be paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, videos, etc.
They come from various artistic currents such as:

  •  impressionist art (second half of the 19th century);
  • modern art (mid-19th to mid-20th century);
  • post-war art (1945 to the 1970s);
  • contemporary art (1950s to the present day).

Actors intervening in the secondary art market


Auction houses, galleries, art fairs and art dealers are the main players in the secondary art market.
In this market, buyers will be able to acquire artworks by listed artists (artists who have already sold works in a public auction).
The artist's price is set according to the price of each public sale.
This prize changes according to the artist's notoriety (works exhibited in a prestigious place, honored by an institution or held by famous collectors).
work of julien rey in the art gallery of lyon square of contemporary art dealer
the art market at fairs

buy art at a fair

Second art market: art dealers

On the secondary market, buyers and sellers of art meet at auctions organized by auction houses.
These private sales are managed by auctioneers in charge of the tender process. The best offer wins the auction. The auction houses take a commission on each sale (25% of the sale price at most).
Internationally, the top five auction houses are:
  • Christie's (United Kingdom);
  • Sotheby's (United States) Phillips (United Kingdom);
  • China Guardian (China);
  • Poly Auction (Hong Kong).

In France, the main auction houses are:

  • Artcurial (Paris);
  • Aguttes (Paris and Lyon);
  • Millon (Paris and Lyon);
  • Tajan (Paris).

Second marché de l'art : les galeries

Les galeries d'art du second marché exposent et vendent des œuvres d'artistes dans leurs locaux ou en ligne.
Elles participent également à des foires d'art afin de promouvoir les artistes qu'elles représentent.
À chaque transaction, les galeries d'art perçoivent une part des ventes appelée commission de vente.

Second marché de l'art : les foires d'art internationales

Les foires d’art internationales assurent un quart des ventes d'art dans le monde.
Ces salons réunissant galeries, marchands d'art, artistes et collectionneurs se déroulent chaque année. Parmi les plus prestigieuses, nous pouvons citer :

  • Art Basel (Bâle - Suisse) ;
  • The European Fine Art Fair ou TEFAF (Maastricht - Pays-Bas) ;
  • La Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain de Paris ou FIAC (Paris - France) ;
  • Frieze London et la Frieze Masters (Londres - Grande-Bretagne) ;
  • ARCO Madrid (Madrid - Espagne).


Second art market: galleries


Art dealers are generally specialists in the art world.
They buy their works from auction houses, art galleries and artists alike.
They then resell these works to their collector clients. Art dealers commonly work on behalf of museums and arts institutions.
They are remunerated on a commission basis (10 and 20% of the sale price of the work).


Trends in the secondary art market

According to data provided by the Art Basel 2020 report, worldwide art sales reached $ 64.1 billion in 2019. The secondary art market accounts for 44% of sales. The United States holds the first place in the world art market, followed by the United Kingdom and China. France's market share is estimated at 7%. The online art market represents a turnover of 5 billion dollars. Sales by galleries and art dealers are estimated at $ 36.8 billion.
Art fairs account for a quarter of world sales with $ 16.6 billion in sales.
Auctions total $ 24.2 billion in sales. Post-war and contemporary art represent a 53% market share.

To learn more about the art market: The first art market The rating of a work of art Where to buy an artwork of art? The taxation of a work of art Resell a work of art

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Understanding the art market 

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