Published: June 23, 2020
By Madelia Hickman Ring
NEWTOWN, CONN. – As states roll through various phases of reopening, many auction houses are now permitted to host bidders for live bidding during sales. Antiques and The Arts Weekly made some calls around the country to get a glimpse at what a few are doing to balance in-person commerce with the safety of bidders – and staff – during this time of transition. This list is by no means exhaustive, nor indicative of statewide regulations, which may differ by county. We urge you to check with your local auction for any restrictions they may impose and call ahead to make sure in-room bidding is allowed or limited by capacity.
MADISON, ALA. – B&W Auctions allowed bidders back into their saleroom for their auction on Saturday, June 20. The first part of the sale will be conducted out of doors, with sanitized chairs available; the second part of the sale will take place indoors. Signs will be posted asking people to social distance and while the staff will be wearing masks, clients are not required to wear them.
ALAMEDA, CALIF – Talesa Eugenio, Michaan’s director of marketing, said, “The county is giving us the go to have live bidders next month, for our July 7-8 Annex Auction and our July 11 Gallery Auction. The precautions we are taking are: using a different side entrance and monitoring entrances, directing gallery traffic flow, requesting all visitors wear masks, as will all employees. Chairs will be six feet apart and the bathrooms will be cleaned three times a day, in the morning, at midday and in the early evening.”
Nadeau’s Auction Gallery
WINDSOR, CONN. – As soon as the State of Connecticut shut down “non-essential” companies, Nadeau’s approached the state saying that they were an essential business and should stay open; they were granted permission to stay open and have been conducting sales with bidders in the room throughout the spring. In addition to frequent cleaning, chairs have been spaced far apart, masks have been recommended but not required, hand sanitizer has been widely available and glass has been set up as a shield between office staff and clients.
SARASOTA, FLA. – Alan Amero: “We opened up the saleroom for our May 31 sale. We had a very limited number of people – just 15 – there wasn’t a big demand for it. We spaced the chairs far apart, had hand sanitizer available and required that people wear masks. I provided some pre-packaged food but that was about it.”
PEMBROKE, GA. – Lori Mattingly: “We opened May 14, with bidding for a limited number of bidders. We posted signs around the building suggesting people practice social distancing. Masks are suggested but not required and hand sanitizer is available.
Baxter Auction Gallery
INDIANAPOLIS, IND. – Bill Baxter: “We were so thrilled to get back into the swing of things! We opened up when we were allowed to have up to 100 people so we’ve had 3 sales like that so far. We advertised masks as being optional and spread the chairs a bit. Hand sanitizer was available as well as food.”
Rich Penn Auctions
WATERLOO, IOWA – Rich Penn: “The state of Iowa has pretty much opened everything up. Our inside capacity is limited; we usually plan for 200, now we are planning for 100, with distance seating for individual bidders or small groups of bidders. We will be using handheld thermometers and hand sanitizer will be available. Masks will be required. The convention center has their own food; we are not recommending that people bring their own food.”
Sloans & Kenyon Auctioneers & Appraisers
CHEVY CHASE, MD. – Stephanie Kenyon: “We conformed to the guidelines about limiting bidders; people had to wear masks and sit six feet apart. We made hand sanitizer available but not food.”
YPSILANTI, MICH. – Chuck Schmidt: “Our June 6 ceramics sale was limited to ten people, all of whom had to wear both masks and gloves, and were not allowed to walk around during the sale, pay after the auction or pickup the day of the sale. We provided hand sanitizer but not food.”
LONE JACK, MO. – Dirk Soulis, Soulis Auctions, has been conducting “Auctions al Fresco” since May, with sales conducted according to Missouri state guidelines permitting limited capacity outdoor gatherings. Auctions take place under a tent with a maximum of 50 attendees who are required to wear masks for the entirety of the sale; an officer will be onsite to ensure compliance.
Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers
ST. LOUIS, MO. – Selkirk’s executive director, Bryan Laughlin, said they were able to allow a limited number of bidders – a maximum of 15 – into the saleroom for Selkirk’s May sale. They planned to do the same for their June 20 sale, where masks were recommended but not required, though staff would be wearing them. Chairs in the auction room would be spread out and food would be neither provided nor allowed in.
William A. Smith Auctions
PLAINFIELD, N.H. – A representative for W.A. Smith said “Everyone will be under a tent. We’re allowed to have as many people as possible as long as they are socially distanced. Masks will be required and we will show items in a video instead of being carried across the block. We’re not having a caterer so people can pack their own picnic as long as they carry out what they bring in.”
LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. – While Rago Auctions has been conducting successful live sales via online, phone and absentee, the firm’s June 20 American Art Pottery sale was the first in which bidders were able to attend the auction in person. David Rago called us in between preview appointments to outline what they are doing to keep everyone safe: “We are limited by the state and will only allow 30 bidders into the saleroom. We will be checking temperatures using a wrist thermometer, then requiring people to sanitize their hands. Chairs will be socially distanced and masks must be worn. We will not be providing our usual catering, though we may have some coffee and prepackaged snacks; people are welcome to bring their own food.”
GLEN COVE, N.Y. – Bill Roland: “Our building is huge so I don’t think we will exceed our capacity, and chairs will be spaced. Bottles of hand sanitizer will be given out. Everyone has to wear masks and can wear gloves if they want.”
COLUMBUS, OHIO – Jeff Jeffers: “We advertised the sale would practice social distancing and that masks were preferred. We have tracked our staff’s general health and hand-washing, and regularly wipe down key surfaces. We provided masks and gloves to anyone who wanted them. The only food we provided was bottled water.”
Pook & Pook, Inc.
DOWNINGTOWN, PENN. – For Pook & Pook’s June 20 Americana Auction and June 22 Decorative Arts Auction, the house allowed in-room bidding, available on a first-come, first-serve basis for no more than 30 clients who will be spaced throughout the saleroom according to social distancing guidelines. Clients will be required to wear masks during the sale. Deirdre Pook Magarelli, the firm’s vice president and staff manager, said “we have a waiting list at this point and have added additional phone lines to all (price) levels of bidding.”
Roan Inc. Auctioneers & Appraisers
COGAN STATION, PENN. – Amanda Roan Covert: “For our June 26-27 sale, we can have up to 250 bidders, so it’s an open door. Masks are optional, as are gloves. We can’t serve food but people can bring food in.”
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – Rob Vogt: “We’ve had three sales to date with a live crowd; the guidelines have changed a bit in terms of what our capacity could be. We space out the chairs and provide hand-sanitizer and masks – we even had logo masks made. But overall, auction crowds are much smaller than they used to be; more people have shifted to bidding online only.”
Duane Merrill and Co., Auctioneers & Appraisers
Ethan Merrill: “For our May 25-26 sale, we had reserve seating for up to ten bidders. You had to wear a mask and hand sanitizer was available. We did not provide food but you could bring your own. We are waiting to see what the governor says to see if we will be able to have more bidders for our July 2-3 sale.”
Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates
MOUNT CRAWFORD, VA. – “We are asking attendees to comply with the current state requirements to wear masks in public; all of our staff who are interacting with the public will be in masks. We will also space out our seating and take other measures to encourage social distancing,” Jeff Evans said.
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