6 November 2015 § Leave a comment
Online auctions are big business. We all know of course about Ebay which started as a local experiment and astonished even its founder as it evolved to cover almost anything that anyone could imagine. Many other online-only sale platforms as well as proprietary auction house live bidding sites have appeared on the web since but many have assumed that the online auction model would never work for big ticket items like blue chip fine art or collectable automobiles.
They were wrong. Despite being late to the party the major auction houses have now all realised that you can indeed sell anything of any value on the web and they too have jumped on the bandwagon. The whole panoply of art, culture and design from $1 to $100 million is now available online.
Naturally with choice comes complication. A search for a photograph by, say, Terry O’Neill could easily take hours via checks upcoming auctions at multiple houses and still be incomplete. It was this growing problem that actually led a Swede, Christian Barnekow, to develop a way to search easily across multiple auctions. barnebys was the result and is now the biggest of its type in the world. It now covers hundreds of thousands of lots from over 1000 auction houses – a number increasing daily – and makes a complex search achievable in seconds – it is an invaluable resource that we use here almost daily.
Another familiar problem for potential buyers is that once you’ve found a Terry O’Neill you need to know its value? Up to now expensive subscriptions to companies like Artnet and Mutualart were needed for, not always satisfactory, access to their databases. A free search at barnebys ‘realised prices’ instantly supplies over a hundred full Terry O’Neill auction records between 1998 to now and allows a quick and easy comparison of other similar works. How brilliant is that?
The auctions, and results, are subdivided in to around thirty different categories across the world of art, design and culture and include for example Fashion & Vintage, Jewellery & Gems, Photographs, Sculpture and Furniture & Design and its a great place to search for affordable designer furniture or perhaps a designer handbag. You can search by any key word, product or select individual auction houses and sales to browse through.
There are many other useful features accessed via the barnebys site including access to a blog with trends, news article and ideas. Last but not least is a free valuation service – simply send details of your item via an online form (here) – and details are forwarded to auction house experts for an appraisal.
We particularly like the website layout which is clear, nicely arranged and easy to use. All in all barnebys should be saved on any everyone’s ‘favourite’ websites. Now, maybe I’ll just put a sly bid on that Picasso ‘La Gommeuse’ at £38 million or perhaps the Warhol Marilyn Monroe instead – a snip at around £100k?
For more information visit www.barnebys.com
28 October 2013 § Leave a comment
For anyone who feels that they might be a dab hand at art investment its well worth taking a look at the new ArtTactic Forecaster – an online ‘guess the art price’ website. Yours Truly is of course competing assidously and is sitting comfortably and tactically at 6th overall (as absolutbargain!) – waiting to make a move for the top when the others aren’t looking. I’ll keep you updated!
Sign up (for free) and every few days the site is updated with works each from a few new auctions. Auctions are worldwide, from the major auction houses and are categorised in to such area as Contemporary Photography, Contemporary Painting, Prints and Sculpture for example. Images, details and estimates are given for the works and using a slider you enter your own prediction for the sales price or estimate as a ‘No Sale’. After the sale you are marked school-style – a point for correct or a half point for close. ArtTactic then draws up league tables in each category as well as overall.
It is of course ‘just for fun’ and is a very appropriate and sobering reminder of just how difficult it is to accurately forecast auction results. Get more than 2 of the 5 right and you’re probably moving up the league table! The difficulty is most clearly brought home by the fact that the auction houses themselves would be well down the tables if their estimates were counted as their entries in the competition. They might say that their estimates are often tactical rather than necessarily accurate – but then again they would wouldn’t they!
There is a more serious aim to the competition of course as ArtTactic presumably aim to attract investors and collectors to their product. ArtTactic after all is an art market analysis firm that offers research and commentary on the ever-changing art world. As new markets emerge and tastes shift, ArtTactic wants to offer the expertise for your to keep a close eye current and future art investments supported by ‘up to the minute information from all corners of the globe.’
It has competition of course, all with slightly differing angles and priorities. Here are the main – and pretty much only – contenders: MutualArt (my personal favourite) , ArtPrice (French, and appropriately awkward to use), Blouin Art Sales Index (and online magazine), Artnet (a US company who also run online auctions), Artfacts (includes a very useful and pretty accurate free-to-use artist ranking guide), Artfact (no ‘s’ – where you can also bid on various online auctions) and Gordons Print & Photography Prices (now part of Blouin, produce annual printed guides).
Anyone who doesn’t plan to use an advisor or consultant when buying art (in truth by far the wisest way to invest) it would be very foolish indeed not to sign up to one of the premium packages available from one or more of these companies. A full auction record of any artist you are investing in is an absolute must and along with various guides to the performance of individual artists or different sectors allows an insight not otherwise available.
A final word of warning beware the free to use companies – some of whom like Artsy are very professional indeed, who purport to offer a guide to prices, when they are in reality more like a selling platform for art of very varying quality.
- Artsy Launches Free Auction Results Service (galleristny.com)
- artnet Auctions Presents: LONGO (prweb.com)
- If Wall Street Worked Like the Art Market – Bloomberg (go.bloomberg.com)
- What Happened at the First Phillips Digital Art Auction (animalnewyork.com)
17 December 2010 § Leave a comment
I thought I would bring to your attention a very useful service provided by the Financial Times (FT) on their online arts pages ‘Arts Extra’. Over and above the fact that this section is well worth watching for some well-written and regularly updated news on the whole of the arts, they feature an Art Price Index (provided by Arts Market Research) which is available as a free service.
Anyone wanting to keep up to speed in the art market could do worse than take an occasional look at the varied indices shown: Old Masters 100’s, America Art 100, Photography 100, and Modern 100. The ‘100’ by the way refers to the fact that the top 100 artists in each field are used to calculate the index. The photographic Index is shown below as an example.
Talking of indices there are a few others of which perhaps the Mei Moses is best known. Created by Jianping Mei and Michael Moses it uses art price ‘pairs’ from works that have sold more than once in auction. It is widely quoted as it was probably the first such index of its kind.
An example of an overall Mei Moses analysis of the market is shown below and seems to confirm what we are often told – that art is a good alternative investment and can often outperform conventional investmnts like equities and gold. A general concensus is that over the last 20-30 years art has more than kept pace with other investments with a compound return of some 7-8% p.a.
However, by using only auction ‘pairs’ Mei Moses of course omits huge swathes of the art market: work sold only once at acution plus sales by artists, galleries, dealers and at art fairs for example. Old Masters, Modern and long-established artist values are probably the best served by their system.
The FT’s indices are of course similarly flawed although not limited by pairing auction sales. It does not take a rocket scientist to realise that all these indices, along with similar price analyses available from other subscription services like artprice, artnet and artfacts, should be used with a great deal of caution. Clearly one cannot buy a work from a gallery and estimate its value a few years by looking at a graph (as one can do more reliably with say, equities or even precisely with say, gold).
The indices neither take account of the costs of buying and selling which, especially for lower value lots are considerable – as much as 30% when various charges and taxes are added in. If you buy at a gallery of course they too add a sizeable margin and you lack the consolation available at auction – the fact that someone was willing to pay a few pounds less than you, meaning that, theoretically, you have a known resale ‘value’. On the other hand if you do purchase from a reputable gallery (not any old high street gallery!!) then they should be amenable to re-selling work at a modest commission. It is in their interest to not only maintain the prices for their artists but at the same time to keep their clients happy.
Now, as far as the painting over your mantlepiece goes is it even part of the index? If your chosen work has made the first (tough) hurdle of remaining a saleable commodity (it is said that only 20% of top gallery artists ever make it to auction) then you need to hope that they are well-enough regarded to be swept along with the same sentiment as for example the ‘top 100’ or a work of enough quality that it has been auctioned twice – an auction ‘pair’ .
You may have been lucky enough to have spotted the next ‘Warhol’ but in the end the following oft-repeated adage is well worth remembering: ‘always buy what you like’. If your work does not increase in value then you can always say that you have had the pleasure of its company on your wall! Unless you happen to enjoy hanging your share certificates on the wall alongside your gold bars then art, or other investments of passion like classic cars, antiques and jewellery, are by far the best way to create maximum pleasure from a financial investment.
Meanwhile buy with care, take your time, enjoy the process and lastly and most importantly do NOT spend large amounts on art without some impartial advice (ie: not from a gallery) – contact an art consultant or expert.
Postscript: As a consultant myself I must reveal I am biased in this respect, but I can guarantee that not only will you escape some serious mistakes, but you may well save on the art that you do buy!