I went to an auction! An art auction! At a proper auction house! On Bond Street!

I’ve been getting very into several 20th Century British Printmakers for a while. This Print Sale was not the first I’ve attended, but it was the first time I’d been without moral support, and the first time with a real possibility of buying something.

Here are some reflections on how it feels: first of all, it’s extremely intimidating. I felt like a kid in a room full of grown-ups. The whole affair reminded me of a game of cricket with a good deal of purposeless messing about followed by swift blasts of action. And, like cricket, auctions seem structured to suit those who don’t have to care too much about the money they’re spending.

Then BANG! We’re up, this is it. Holding up your hand that first time to bid is daunting. Deciding when to stop holding up your hand to bid when things are rattling on is intensely difficult. There is very little time to think and that’s the key trick of the auction: no time to step back, take another look, decide whether it is worth that next increment.

I lost the print I went in for, after allowing myself to be pushed from a very reasonable starting price to quite a long way over my budget. On coming to my senses and shaking my head, I was surprised that I’d bid money I’d struggle to afford. I’m not talking about ruinous sums, but enough to leave a major hole in my month’s cash. So I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed: once you’ve decided you like a bit of paper enough to pay lots of money for it, it’s gutting to see someone else get the thing. Maybe if I’d just gone that extra ’30…

No time to worry about that though, because I’m bidding on the next lot, same artist, same low-ish starting price (there’s a bid ‘on the books’, someone’s bid in absentia). I’m in and then… nothing. The book’s out. No-one else in the room is interested. I’ve made one bid and I’m winning the lot. I realise my heart is beating like all hell. She’s saying she’ll sell and, with a little bang of the gavel, does so. I can feel myself flushed as people are looking at me, then I realise that I’m supposed to hold up the little paddle with my number on it. I’m being sniggered at but I don’t mind so much because I think I’ve got something of a bargain, and because I’m only just getting over the stressy-adrenaline thuddy deafness.

Then it’s just the paying and (with the Buyer’s premium and the VAT charged on this lot) realising that the price I paid would be about 30% higher than the hammer price. I’m very pleased. I buy art!