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)
30 January 2012 § 1 Comment
The contemporary art auction market in London has in recent years been a bitter slug-fest between the two ‘big boys’ – Sotheby’s and Christies. Last year Christies won on points with their total for the three sales – in February, June and October – reaching £167m, only about £3m ahead of Sotheby’s. A distant third is Phillips de Pury whose three sales grossed only (!) £36m.
The new kid on the block is Bonhams but this sounds a strange thing to say since they have been around since 1793. However it is only since 2001, when they came under new ownership that they have started expanding significantly and have steadily eaten in to the larger houses share of the auction market. Contemporary art has never been their strong suit and, following some dabbling in the contemporary market in their hit and miss Vision 21 auctions they have now launched a full-scale assault on the hegemony of the bigger houses. Following the inaugural sale by the new Contemporary Art Department last October – only grossing about £2m but largely successful and 70% sold – thay are offering another closely curated sale of 20 lots with a modest mid-estimate total of around £2.5m.
At first glance this sale could be dismissed as a sale of little importance in the London Contemporary market, but a look at the catalogue shows something more interesting. The catalogue is a beautifully and expensively produced whopper. One hundred and sixty-four pages. For twenty lots. Every lot gets loads of attention and space lavished upon it. Take a nice Alan Davie Little Tut’s Wagon (lot 5) modestly estimated at £25-35k – the artist gets a double page spread for his photo and a couple more devoted to his work, the painting has a double page plus a fold-out – the equivalent to about 8 pages! At Sotheby’s or Christies it might have got a half a page – in the day sale. There are other modestly-priced works – expect them to go well above estimate – and some very interesting higher rated works too – notably Urs Fischer’s Untitled 2006 (lot 10), Frank Auerbach‘s Head of Lucien Freud (lot 6) and Richard Prince’s Untitled (Girlfriend) (lot 15).
The modest number of lots and total value of the sale is, at least in part, deliberate. I was told that Bonhams wish to establish themselves with very successful sales of low to mid value lots, before going full tilt at the market. I wish them every luck, and with such commitment as they show here who would bet against them becoming a major player in the contemporary market in the coming years. Meanwhile, if you have a contemporary work to sell there looks like only one sensible place to put it at the moment. With such attention and quality of presentation and, dare I venture, some negotiation of commission for good works, Bonhams will be hard to beat.
London Contemporary auction scehdule February 2012
13/14 Feb Bonhams One/Two eve/day
14/15 Feb Christies eve/day
15/16 Sothebys eve/day
17/18 Phillips de Pury eve/day
- Lucian Freud drawings to go under the hammer (telegraph.co.uk)