Posted: January 2, 2019 -
There are many online auction sites offering their visitors the chance to bid for art from the comfort of their own home, taking away the social barriers of bidding at traditional auction houses, where you often have to be of a certain status and wealth. According to the Hiscox report, online auction houses are booming and facing the most intense competition ever this year. Last year Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips all saw global auction sales increase by 25%, with online auction sales growing by 15.6%.
The turn to online has also seen traditional auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s begin to use online platforms. In the case of Christie’s, one of the largest auction houses in the world, it announced it would be downsizing its Amsterdam space and closing down its London space, instead choosing to focus on their online auctions. Online sales at Christie’s were also recorded as attracting the largest number of new buyers, with a 40% growth and total spend of $119.7 million in the first half of 2018. Christie’s also made the decision to publish its online auction results, signifying a move in the right direction towards total transparency in the art market, something that is key to encouraging new buyers to start buying online. In 2018 Sotheby’s announced a collaboration with Thread Genius, a company founded by former Spotify engineers that uses artificial intelligence to distinguish collector’s tastes, offering them recommendations. Key players in the industry such as Artsy have also made significant investments in online auction businesses.
List of key players:
Artsy delivers a well-designed online bidding experience. Collectors can place bids from the web, tablets, or mobile phone, while easily checking on the status of their bids. In addition to their timed online-only auctions, Artsy’s Live Auction allows collectors to browse lots from upcoming live sales, leave max bids, and continue bidding in the live sale. They also provide a consignment service provides auction houses with direct access to collectors who are looking to sell work.
Founded in 2017, AucArt is an online auction house dealing with artists in the early stages of their career, either having just finished postgraduate or undergraduate degrees. This allows clients to collect works from emerging artists, following their journeys and professional careers. Currently used by 3,500 collectors, AucArts users share the desire to catch promising talent, discovering the artists of the future. Artists can apply by submitting a selection of their work online. The AucArt team also visits the top 30 art schools across the UK to scout new talent. The AucArt team are based in London and works on the platform are priced from £200 – £6000.
One of the world’s largest and oldest auctioneers, Bonham’s was founded in London in 1793 and still stands as a unique and revered auction house that is privately owned. Since its conception Bonham’s has brought its auctions to the digital world, with a host of specialists in fine art, antiques and decorative objects, it is known for offering expert advice and excellent customer service. Matthew Girling, the Chief Executive of the company believes that technology should only be used to amplify the things most integral to the business. Girling recruited an agency in 2018 to undertake a “digital transformation” that will take place in the coming years with the aim to make their specialists more easily accessible, including more exciting ways to communicate with them.
Christie’s online auctions offer a range of goods, from fine art, jewellery, watches and collectibles to fine wine. Their platform is accessible from a computer or android, allowing its users to bid from anywhere at any time. For the online bidder Christie’s offers two ways of buying: via the live sales where buyers can either physically participate in the auction or view the proceedings online via a camera and bid, or the second is the online-only sales which do not have a live auctioneer. Christie’s is currently trying to direct its clients toward this kind of bidding.
Invaluable is one of the world’s premier auctioneers and galleries and one of the fastest growing e-commerce sites in the art world. Browsing the site, you will encounter auctions and galleries, as well as a variety of art, collectibles, jewellery and furniture. Invaluable was founded in Boston in 1989. Using the latest technology, Invaluable’s historical price database has 58 million auction results covering sales in excess of $204 billion. There are 3 million unique monthly visitors viewing artworks by 4,000 sellers. Operating from the US, UK, France, Belgium, Germany, and Australia, Invaluable provides 24/7 expert customer care.
Paddle8 is based in New York and was founded by Alexander Gilkes, Aditya Julka and Osman Khan in 2011. The platform sells pieces between $1,000 – $10,000, representing both well-known and emerging artists. In 2017 Paddle8 was purchased by competitor Auctionata, which soon after became insolvent. Auctionata was placed under scrutiny after KPMG found allegations of serious trade violations, to do with the company’s CEO participating in “shill bidding,” a technique used to artificially increase sale prices. The Native SA, a Swiss technology company then merged with Paddle8 in January 2018. Paddle8 have since gone onto launch the P8Pass for each work they sell online, this information then goes on to be encoded on the Bitcoin blockchain in the hopes of improving the transparency of the art market. They have also introduced blockchain-based sales, with the first sale accepting Bitcoin set to take place on the 18th August this year. Izabela Depczyk who is the Founder and Executive board member of The Native SA and Managing Director at Paddle8 has advised online buyers to not be deterred from searching for art in the real world in order to gain an understanding of their own tastes before going onto purchasing online.
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Harry Phillips founded Phillips in London in 1796. Now it stands as one of the most forward-thinking, internationally renowned auction houses in the world, specialising in all kinds of art, photography, design, watches, jewellery and collectibles amongst other things. The platform has launched a mobile live-bidding platform making it easier than ever, clients are able to live stream auctions and place bids from anywhere in the world. Phillips also introduced a new genre of sales in the form of the New Now Auctions, which they hold alongside their more traditional sales. In New Now they offer more affordable prices for blue chip artists, as well as young, emerging artists. The top lot sold at their February auction this year was a George Condo painting which was given a relatively low estimate of $500,000. This type of auction works well for the new collectors as there is a mix of traditional and historic works as well as more modern pieces.
A leading marketplace for fine art, antiques and collectibles and one of the fastest growing e-commerce sites in the art world according to Blouin ArtInfo. The organisation works with over 5,000 of the world’s leading premier auction houses, dealers and galleries operating in the US, UK, France, Belgium, Germany and Australia. It is recorded that Invaluable receives 3 million unique monthly visitors viewing artworks by 4,000 sellers. In 2018 they launched the Invaluable App for Android making it possible to place bids wherever you are. CEO Rob Weisber reported that they have just seen the three most successful months in company history with record numbers of buyers and lots sold.
In March of 2015, Sotheby’s and eBay jointly announced live streaming auctions on eBay. The experience enables art aficionados and casual collectors alike to participate in Sotheby’s live auctions anytime, anywhere with the same confidence and access of those bidding in person in New York. Sotheby’s on eBay is for both the curious new buyer and seasoned collector. Much of their premium arts and collectibles are surprisingly valued under $25,000.
READ MORE: GROWTH OF THE ONLINE ART MARKET