Part I of the International Art Industry Forum panel discussion held during Art Basel Miami Beach 2013.
This first part of the discussion focuses on the history of the online art markets, their development and ways in which technological advancements affected the traditional art market. More specifically, how Sotheby’s (failed) online art selling attempt in 2000 has helped shaped the current online art market and how contemporary technologies makes it possible for various platforms to engage with their target customer. Thomas Galbraith of Paddle8, talked about the various ways his company interacts with their clients and how they employ technology to improve communication.
During the discussion Anne-Hélène Decaux of ArtViatic, noted that the collectors’ profiles have changed dramatically as compared to a decade ago and the contemporary collectors are younger, more engaged with the internet and have a much better familiarity and understanding of the mechanics of buying art online. They are also more willing to purchase higher priced items through the internet art platforms.
As the recent sales in New York showed, the new collectors are very international. In fact, as Amelia Manderscheid of Christie’s noted, bidders from 128 countries participated in the auction house’s latest online sale session.
This International Art Industry Forum panel discussion was a joint effort between Elena Zavelev of Skate’s Art Market Research, galleryIntell, and the Russian Pavilion, and was held at Kavachnina Contemporary in Miami on December 5, 2013.
The panel was moderated by Javier Lumbreras, CEO, Artemundi Global Fund, Artemundi Management Limited.
Anne-Hélène Decaux, Head of Communications, ArtViatic
Thomas Galbraith, Managing Director of Auctions, Paddle8
Amelia Manderscheid, Specialist and Global Head of eCommerce, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s
Other questions discussed during the panel included: Is the online space suitable only for lower-priced works, or there is an opportunity for big-ticket sales? How are issues of authenticity addressed in the online market place? Are online art sales a global phenomenon, or are there markets that are more suitable for selling art online? What kind of a collector is more interested in buying art online, and what mediums are more popular on such platforms? What trends can we expect to see in 2014?
Javier Lumbreras, ArteMundi: I would like to thank the organizations involved in organizing the event along with all the sponsors. I would like to go right into the subject here because it’s a very interesting subject, very deep, and a very complex issue. It’s a very exciting market that features a new concept and examines a revolution in the market. A lot of things have happened since the year 2000 and I think we are very privileged to have here three different models from the industry. Paddle 8 has one model, ArtViatic has another model and Christie’s has a different model. We are very excited to hear from all of them. I have a few questions. So, we’ll start with the first question and we’ll start with you, Amelia.
How has the online art market changed over the years and how have these changes affected the traditional art market?
Amelia Manderscheid, Christie’s: So I think Sotheby’s and Amazon, launched their site in 2000 and I think it was a little premature. That was the Sotheby’s online gallery that they did and they have not since re-engaged in the online market. Amazon has recently restarted on its own. Christie’s first foray into the online auctions was with our Elizabeth Taylor sale. We had multiple sessions for that sale and we had an online-only sale. Over 1,000 items, including her personal effects –caftans and jewelry – and estimates were pretty conservative. Most of the things were under $5,000. Every single thing sold and sold extremely well, being that it came from Elizabeth Taylor’s estate. So, that’s when we started online sales at Christie’s back in December of 2011. And I know that Thomas (Galbraith) can speak to when Paddle8 started to do what they are doing, but also I know that Art+Auction tried to have their own online auction back around 2000-2001. They stepped out of the market and stepped back into the market in 2006 – 2007.
Thomas Galbraith, Paddle8: The way the market has changed online is directly proportional to technology’s ability, or internet’s ability to translate art in a meaningful way within an online platform. You made a good point about Sotheby’s and Amazon. If you look at the original iterations of those websites, they were absolutely handicapped by the fact that the presentation was rough and not in any way compelling or exciting, or presented in a way that made you want to buy the art in the first place. And as the internet, and as the technology has developed over the years into a viable platform and different tools became available to the entities within that field – the way that you actually present art online has changed dramatically. At Paddle 8, for example, we employ all kinds of different technologies – we use gif’s and Instagram and videos and all kinds of different things in order to be able to more accurately, or better present the work of art online. None of that was possible in the early 2000’s, so I completely agree with Amelia. It was ahead of its time. It was a fantastic idea for sure, which is why it’s blowing up now and why the art market is one of the remaining markets that is being “disrupted” by the internet space. But, it was too far ahead of the technology and technology was unable to accommodate people’s desire to a) spend money online, because at that point people were only happy spending maybe $100 online, and b) to present the works in a way that was compelling enough to buy them.
Anne-Hélène Decaux, ArtViatic: I think that technology has evolved – it’s true. In 2000 people would never go online to buy art. But what’s also changed –is the world. And the behavior of the collectors has changed. New collectors buy online everywhere, in every country. I’ve read that last year at Christie’s you’ve had bidders from 128 countries. This is crazy – this is the whole world. And of that numbers 10% were new buyers.
AM: A lot of our buyers online are new to Christie’s.
AD: So, the technology has changed but also the collector has changed. And these “new” people are way younger than they used to be. Before collectors were in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, all the way into their 80’s. Now we’ve had collectors who are my age and they are ready and willing to buy, not for just $100 or $500. The “typical” collector has really changed. And that’s also one of the reasons why the online art market is so successful.
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