Stephan Welz & Co. has seen the start of many professional careers as fine art specialists and our current team is no exception. In order to function within the secondary or auction market it is important to have a holistic understanding of the multiple and versatile spheres of the art industry. Our junior art specialist in Johannesburg, Robyn Woolley has had firsthand experience in both the primary and secondary market and offers an advisory service to new collectors who are navigating the realms of both art markets to start off their art collections.

Primary Market versus Secondary Market:

As an aspiring collector, it is helpful to understand the nuances of both the primary and secondary art markets in order to manage and plan your purchases. It is easy and understandable to be navigated by aesthetical preferences when it comes to purchasing art. However, when collecting art with the aim of reselling some of your pieces there are further elements to consider. The market that a collector decides to participate in depends on a collector’s motivation and intention when purchasing artwork, i.e. to support an artist’s career, as alternative investment assets, or to keep an artwork. If you are interested in building your art collection, a good perspective and understanding of both the primary and secondary market and how they operate is required.

The terms primary and secondary market when applied within the art world still retain their economic definition. A primary market within the art industry refers to galleries as their stock has never been sold before and it is usually sourced directly from the artist. The primary market is the most viable space for an emerging artist where the entry level journey commences. If an artist starts to showcase some commercial and economic success, and a demand for his or her art dawns, the viability of that artist being sold in the secondary market increases. However, this is not always guaranteed as some artists although successful within the primary market, are never sold via the secondary market. There are various reasons why this could occur however, one factor being the collectability of the artist. Collectability is not always determined by economic and commercial success as the art industry is, like most, susceptible to trends. An artist’s collectable status can be determined by many factors; reputation, history and influence to list a few.

The secondary market refers to auction houses mainly since these establishments sell previously owned or purchased artworks. The secondary market evaluates artworks based on prior sale records, the sales precedent for the artist, the subject matter, the importance of the work within the artist’s oeuvre and the condition of the work.  Over time, an artwork may increase in monetary value depending on the artists individual market and the availability of the artist’s other works. Comparatively, values provided by art galleries are dependent on the artist’s career, exhibition history and medium of the work.

Both of these markets are not necessarily mutually exclusive and there is often a nature of cause and effect between these two spaces, although they can exist in their own capacity.

As someone who has worked in the primary art market it is interesting to see the inevitable differences as well as the strong intertwined nature between the primary and secondary art markets. It is, of course, tantalizing to work with rare and desirable collectables. To learn from a rapidly evolving and fickle market is one of my favorite aspects of being an art specialist. I find the nature of the business (in an auction house) with its every changing, yet somehow constant zeitgeist, rather remarkable. Both the secondary and primary markets are age-old industries that has an impact on our cultural perspectives which is an impressive sentiment.

We encourage art collectors to contact us as we are currently consigning for our premium auctions. Please email us on or, or call us on 011 880 3125 or 021 794 6461.

All About the Primary and Secondary Art Markets. Chava Krivchenia. 2020. [O].,sold%20on%20the%20market%20before.

The Primary Versus the Secondary Art Market. 2017. [O].

Art: The Primary and Secondary Market. 2015. [O].

Sold Highlights Johannesburg – November 2022


Lot 930

Alexis Preller (South African 1911 – 1975) OLIVIA MARIA PRELLER (PRELLER’S MOTHER)

Est: R600 000 – R700 000

Sold: R693 390


Lot 883

Danie de Jager (South African 1936 – 2003 ) SHAWU

Est: R100 000 – R150 000

Sold: R155 415




Lot 844

Gregoire Johannes Boonzaier (South African 1909 – 2005) STILL LIFE WITH FLOWERS

Est: R60 000 – R90 000

Sold: R95 640




Sold Highlights: Cape Town – February 2023



Lot 410

Moses Tladi (South African 1903 – 1959) UNTITLED LANDSCAPE, accompanied by A.R Lloyd’s book, The Artist in the Garden, The Quest for Moses Tladi 

Est: R80 000 – R120 000

Sold: R185 303




Lot 376

Gavin Rain (South African 1971 – ) NEW YORK STREET SCENE

Est: R15 000 – R20 000

Sold: R53 798



Lot 352

Michael Amery (South African 1984 – ) UNTITLED

Est: R15 000 – R20 000

Sold: R35 865

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