The Art of Auctioneering
The Auctioneer’s voice starts slow and softly, barely audible against the steady hum of the drums. Bright lights and geometric shapes bounce off the ceiling. Gospel singers belt out hymns. Auctioneers chant, passing the bid from one to another.
Created by multimedia artist Doug Aitken, this groundbreaking performance art turns the speedy chant of Auctioneers into a mesmerizing melody. The shows illustrate what many in the industry already know — that auctioneering is an art form — while introducing people to the world of fast-paced auctions.
“It’s over the top, and it’s fun,” says Jill Doherty, the 2002 women’s division winner of the International Auctioneer Championship (IAC). “We become performers.”
A handful of Auctioneers has traveled around the U.S. and Europe, recently performing at a gala at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. The group has performed in Italy, Switzerland and England, among others. More trips are in the works.
A visit to the National Auctioneers Association’s annual Conference and Show in the late 1990s sparked Aitken’s interest in auctions, says Eli Detweiler Jr., CAI, who has worked with Aitken for a decade.
“Doug became fascinated with auctions,” says Detweiler, of Detweilers Auction Service, Ruffin, N.C., who was last year’s IAC winner in the men’s division. “He immediately saw bid calling as an art.”