Efforts will be made to make the experience as nonintimidating as possible. Prices will be clearly displayed, artists and experts will be on hand to talk about the work and there will be none of the formality and pressure-cooker atmosphere for which auction rooms are famous.
"Auctions can be quite daunting spaces to go into," says Carol Brown of Curate.a.Space, the Durban-based museum and art consultancy that the auctioneer has asked to curate the show.
"You’re sort of expected to bid and have lots of money, and know how the process works — people are terrified of shaking their heads or scratching their noses. The advantage of a curated show is that the ambience is much friendlier and less threatening."
The auctioneer is interested in selling to the black professional and middle class, as well as young people who have the means to buy fine art but may not know how to avoid spending inordinate amounts on "something that is décor".
Contemporary art is more appealing to this new audience. "Young professionals are not really going to be interested in buying a Victorian painting; now it’s about contemporary art — and African art; it’s enormous even internationally," Brown notes.
But contemporary works seldom appear at auctions. Traditionally, a strict divide existed between the primary and secondary art markets.
"New work was seldom auctioned; it had to come from a previous owner, with a provenance," Brown says.
Art writer and critic Sean O’Toole says as a rule, it is considered suspect for an auction house to act as seller of first instance of a work.