Georgina Adam has a on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand piece in this weekend’s Financial Times asking whether buyers will spend big money online. Although she has some interesting numbers from Heritage Auctions which does some $200 million a year online with average prices around the $10,000 mark, her piece lumps in two very different things: art fairs and auctions.
Online bidding in auctions is just another medium for taking bids. The limitations at the moment are not with buyers willingness to place bids through the internet but with the auctioneers ability to receive those bids.
During the recent New York Contemporary art day sale at Sotheby’s, Oliver Barker became somewhat frustrated with online bids that broke the rhythm of bidding between buyers in the room and Sotheby’s representatives bidding with eye contact for buyers on the telephone.
What’s holding online bidding back in the high-stakes sales is dealers and collectors confidence that their bids will be received with the same timeliness and attention that a phone or floor bid receives. Auction bidding is a finely calibrated skill that often sees bids waiting for split seconds before the final hammer or bidders trying to gauge the room.
Until bidders are confident that they won’t miss a bid by submitting it online, it’s just as easy to have the auction house provide a telephone representative for a sale.