In 2005 Daft Punk released their ever-catchy hit Technologic. With developments in information and communication technology changing the way business is conducted in the art world, it would be interesting to see how the French duo would re-write and update the lyrics for an art world in apparent over-hall. It might go something like this:
Click it, like it, view it, try it,
Zoom it, check it, fail to buy it,
Win it, lose it, send it, rate it,
Pause to think if you should crate it,
Scan it, send it, fax it, trend it,
Blog it, flog it, comprehend it,
Vet it, set it, price it, get it,
Pay it, play it, don’t delay it,
List it, charge it, add-to-cart it,
Server crashes, just restart it,
Brand it, place it, Bubble-burst it,
All else fails just Damien Hirst it.
In an article on Blouin Artinfo last December, Abigail R. Esman addresses the advances in online platforms for buying and selling art. She notes the use of the phrase ‘game-changer’ and its proliferation within the commentary on the art market at the moment, noting that “nowhere, it seems, did that phrase appear more frequently than in the growing boom of the online art market.” Kathyrn Tully touches on this in Forbes earlier this month, noting that
“the Deloitte and ArtTactic report counted more than 300 online art ventures have been established across the world in recent years, which on some counts, should be good very news for art buyers. As the report finds, “new online transaction platforms add liquidity to the art market and will broaden the scope and depth of art market data available, which in turn will improve transparency and facilitate more accurate art valuations.”
While there are many nay-sayers out there, the fact of the matter is that while many of these online platforms will shimmer out as quickly as they blazed in, some are currently thriving and will stand the test of time. Many nay-sayers had wrote off VIP Art, yet Artspace saw the potential in joining forces and acquiring it. Will online ventures replace physical galleries and fairs? No. But they are providing a service to many collectors in a global art community living in a technological age.
Many believe that the only option for selling art online lies in the more high volume/low priced transactions. But can an online sales channel be responsible for bringing works of high prices to collectors?
An ambitious new venture aiming to do just that is ArtViatic, an online platform that acts as an intermediary for negotiations between buyers and sellers in the sale of artworks over the value of €150,000. Advertising itself as “an alternative to auction houses, dealers and brokers” ArtViatic charges low commission rates of 3% buyer and 3% seller. According to their website, all works submitted for sale on ArtViatic are vetted by their experts and come with a certificate of authenticity or are listed in the catalogue raisonné. Each proposed work is then analyzed and verified against the Art Loss Register and the Interpol Database of Stolen Art. The team reply to the seller within 7 days. If approved, the work is listed for four months in the online catalogue. Should the work not sell, it is removed after the four-month period. AMM spoke with Antony Riand, Executive Director at ArtViatic, to find out more.
AMM: ArtViatic is online since October 2012, how have the site statistics grown regarding membership month-on-month?
AR: When the platform went live in October, we already had members and artworks for sale. Antoine Van de Beuque, the president and founder of ArtViatic, has been working as a private dealer on the art market for almost 35 years, running the Wildenstein gallery as vice-president for 10 years and specializing in impressionist, modern and contemporary masters. He has quite a reputation! So we started with his private network and then launched a campaign to recruit new members, which has been very successful so far. Today, I can say that the statistics regarding membership month-month are more than promising. We are well beyond our forecasts and increasing numbers of collectors and investors from all over the world (China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium…) are following us each week. Now we want take it a step further and unite our fledgling community, especially since we are quite specialized on a niche market, only selling artworks estimated at over €150.000,00.
AMM: You were talking about trying to meet the needs of this particular niche, what groups did you survey or interview while you were researching the possibility of ArtViatic?
AR: The platform is useful to collectors and art dealers alike, as well as artists and institutions such as banks, foundations or investment funds. It’s a valuable resource for anyone who wants to put up their works for sale, to suppress delays and pressure from third parties and get in touch with sellers, so they can negotiate directly, rapidly, and at a very low cost (3% on each side).
AMM: What were the main concerns from collectors and how did you address those concerns in your business model?
AR: The main concerns from collectors were confidentiality, security, provenance and services ranging from valuation to private viewings and escrow account.
To address those concerns, we’ve built a very private platform: it’s a member-only website allowing private sales, and, contrary to auction sales, the prices obtained for works exchanged on ArtViatic remain private and will not be disclosed publicly. Moreover, when it comes to the Internet, confidentiality also reads as security. Protecting your personal information and activities on the platform is a key priority. We use the latest SSL standards to ensure that your data and online negotiations cannot be intercepted or manipulated; we offer the most advanced security procedures currently available to block suspicious activity and malicious attacks; and all information passing through www.artviatic.com is encrypted.
Regarding the provenance, you must know that all pieces presented in our catalogue are listed in the artists’ catalogue raisonné and guaranteed by a certificate of authenticity, signed by the appropriate expert. Our specialists analyze and verify all the given information and check both the Art Loss Register and the Interpol Database of Stolen Art to make sure the provenance of each piece is clear.
And finally, in order to make the platform even more user-friendly, we also offer bespoke subscriber services: works of art can be estimated; private viewings to physically see the work can be organized; their transportation can be set up; and an escrow account was established in Monaco so that transactions can be conducted safely.
AMM: So I understand the seller pays for the viewing of the work, but does ArtViatic organize the actually showing in one of the showrooms?
AR: Yes. Bespoke private viewing services are available to members of ArtViatic.
ArtViatic has negotiated preferential rates with partners such as Trans Art… that are renowned for the quality of their services to provide discreet venues for private viewings around the globe (Monaco, Paris, Genève, London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc).
All partners are members of ICEFAT and ARTIM, the two international networks that promote the highest standards of professionalism in the Fine Art shipping.
AMM: And the seller pays for all that?
AR: Indeed, shipping, packing and storage costs remain the responsibility of the seller.
AMM: And of the 3 works you’ve sold so far, how many people asked for viewings?
AR: Two of three. The last sale we’ve made, the buyer did ask for a condition report, so we sent one of our expert down to Dusseldorf, where the piece was, to do it. The clients were happy about her results so didn’t ask to see the piece themselves. It surprised us but also showed us that we were on the right path!
AMM: I’ve read through that list of vetting criteria on ArtViatic. The specialists don’t actually view the work, and the condition report is listed as ‘optional’. Why?
AR: We are giving the buyer the opportunity to view the painting and we recommend them to send an expert or at least ask for condition report made by one. We also focus on the provenance of the works, making sure that they are legally available on the market thanks to Interpol and the Art Loss Register, and on their authenticity, accepting only pieces that have the right certificate and are listed in the catalogue raisonné of the artist works. As long as the works of art can be traced, authenticated, and as long as they can be evaluated by experts and seen during private viewings, we believe everything is there to ensure the success of this new type of sales.