‘A performance art’: The secrets of a Christie’s auctioneer

Hugh Edmeades has been responsible for over £2.2 billion in sales at the world’s biggest auction house. Here, he presents his expert advice for would-be auctioneers

‘It’s showtime,’ declares Hugh Edmeades, International auctioneer for Christie’s and the company’s former International Director of Auctioneering. ‘It’s a performance art,’ continues Edmeades, who conducted over 2,300 auctions after making his debut in August 1984 — selling over 300,000 lots for more than £2.2 billion. ‘Our stage is our rostrum, and our only prop is our gavel.’ 

With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Edmeades is an expert performer. Before stepping down from his full-time post at the end of September, he managed a select group of 65 men and women responsible for taking Christie’s sales across the globe. Many are graduates of his highly competitive ‘Auctioneering School’, run every two years for Christie’s staff. 

‘Auctioneers must enjoy themselves, and the bidders will too’

In this video, Edmeades gives an exclusive insight into the rigorous training his potentials undertake. ‘If an actor doesn’t know his or her lines, then they cannot truly perform their part. And with auctioneers, if we don’t know our numbers and our increments then we cannot truly sell,’ he insists. 

His other nuggets of wisdom are more subtle, though no less important — from encouraging auctioneers to adopt bright accessories, to using hand gestures. Perhaps the most vital is a sense of enthusiasm. To succeed as an auctioneer, Edmeades says, requires speed and energy: ‘Auctioneers must enjoy themselves, and the bidders will too.’