An innovative Australian art dealer from a family of art dealers, Robert Webeck, died unexpectedly during an operation for cancer of the esophagus:
In the 1970s and ’80s, he and his older brother, John, operated an auction house in North Sydney under the name Spectrum Art Enterprises. Webeck was chirpy, with a mischievous grin never far away, and he soon became a familiar identity at art sales. With no grandiose designs on the art business despite his background, he frequented the secondary rooms in Sydney and also sent pictures to Melbourne for sale. Few Sydney auctions were conducted without his involvement and he was a supplier to auctions in both capitals.
The brothers were also innovative. They pioneered the use of the buyers’ premium, a commission charged by auction houses to buyers usually in addition to a vendors’ commission. They called their charge a ”split commission” and charged 6 per cent to vendor and buyer alike.
This led to challenges from other auctioneers under trade practices legislation on the grounds that an auctioneer could not act for both vendor and buyer at the same time, and the brothers were forced to stop. This, of course, no longer seems a problem in the industry and the premium is almost universal, and usually 20 per cent.
Another innovation, showing Webeck’s ingenuity, was a revolving picture stand that showed each lot as it was being sold. This speeded up the auctions in an age before even slide projection was used, ending last-minute confusion and delays over what was going under the hammer. Sotheby’s in New York simultaneously developed a similar device.
Straight-talking, Ingenious Art Dealer (Sydney Morning Herald)