Bidding Better Online in Belgium: The Value of Auction House Expertise during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Syra Kalbermatten, Christoph Rausch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this article, we present our analysis of how one of Belgium's largest auction houses has creatively dealt with the forced transition to online auctions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on in-depth qualitative interviews and participant observation conducted at Bernaerts Auctioneers in Antwerp over a period of three months between February and April 2021, we show how the auction house has succeeded at maintaining relations with its clients and the public while exclusively moving its sales online. Our specific focus was on the mediation of expertise. Drawing on recent publications from the fields of economic sociology and anthropology, we analyzed how expert narratives of origin, authenticity, and uniqueness are communicated online to affect an object's auction value. Based on our empirical research, which also includes narrative analyses of Bernaerts Auctioneers' internet publication Prelude, as well as content shared online via social media, we argue that expert knowledge and practices of expertise are resilient and-contrary to what neoclassical economic theory might suggest-that they continue to be central to negotiations of value, as well as in online auctions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number75
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • expertise
  • online art market
  • online auctions
  • value


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