Why the fine art auction world is in flux



The art world is evolving to cope with the fragmentation of the market. Traditional auction business models are now facing tough competition from exclusively online auctions, with lower running costs

When you think of an art auction, what do you picture? A man with a gavel, standing next to a priceless masterpiece while a well-dressed audience make bids with furtive hand gestures; twitch, and you might accidentally lose a small fortune. Yes, it’s thrilling theatre, but it can also be a little daunting.

Enter Tim Goodman. After a career spanning 40 years in the auction business, he is a man on a mission to shake up the industry.

While the internet had a massive effect on many auctioneers, the worlds of fine art and antiques remain dominated by the same few historic houses. But for how long? “I believe the future lies in a new business model for fine art auctioneering,” says Goodman, formerly Australian head of Bonhams and later Sotheby’s. “The traditional auction business model is no longer sustainable.”

That is why Goodman has just launched an online auction: Fine Art Bourse (FAB). His desire is to refresh the entire auction world and attract completely new audiences. The aim of FAB, he says, is to “democratise the secondary art market and make more art more accessible to more people”.

FAB’s first sale, “Erotic, Fetish & Queer Art & Objects”, takes place on 25 September, and has already attracted controversy following Facebook’s refusal to post advertisements for the sale.

The images include La Toilette by Bernard Fleetwood-Walker and a 19th-century silver cigarette case featuring a nude after the French Orientalist painter Jean-Léon Gérôme. Facebook blocked the images and locked FAB’s account on grounds of indecency.

Following what he saw as unfair censorship, Goodman addressed an open letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, expressing his outrage over the platform’s inability to distinguish between pornography and fine art.

“Facebook seems to be using its monopoly over social interaction to impose absurd standards of political correctness,” he wrote. “The problem is not… conservative advertising guidelines, [but] a system that doesn’t allow for real judgement.”

But Facebook is not the only big name that Goodman is now up against. His new venture is adopting digital technology to break apart the stronghold of the industry’s power players. Unlike traditional auction houses, with their expensive galleries and doorstopper catalogues (which are environmentally unfriendly, says Goodman), FAB focuses on what really matters to both buyers and sellers.

“My model lies in slashing costs in three areas: bricks and mortar, human resources and printing,” explains Goodman. Auctions take place purely online, specialists are hired for specific projects as needed and there are no printed catalogues.

These cost efficiencies, combined with locating the business in Hong Kong, which has no indirect tax nor copyright and artist resale royalty charges, have allowed FAB to offer the tempting prospect of 5 per cent premiums. With fees at traditional auction outlets nearing 20 per cent for sellers and 25 per cent for buyers, Goodman sees the internet as a way to overturn the more old-fashioned models of auctioneering.

It’s not just about cutting costs; FAB offers impressive flexibility, too. “As the world unremittingly grows more dependent on mobile devices,” says Goodman, “it only makes sense for art to join the ranks of industries disrupted by digital technology.


“With each coming generation, the leap to purchasing art online gets smaller and smaller, with portals like Instagram changing the dialogue by providing a platform for a new generation of younger people to admire influencers, source artists and purchase art without third-party intervention.”

Credits - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/art/barnebys-auctions/why-fine-art-auction-world-is-in-flux/
Tom Jeffreys
Post a Comment

Popular Posts