Katie Rosman profiles the most successful and least written about online seller of art objects, Michael Bruno of 1stDibs.com:
“You buy things you love and don’t need,” he says. “Natural collectors don’t even think about it, they just collect.”
Bruno launched 1stdibs—an online marketplace for dealers of high-end art and furniture and rare antiques—in 2000. He had moved to Paris in 1999 and during a walk through the flea market realized the potential opportunities for French dealers if they could easily reach American buyers. “We learned early on that people were willing to buy online and have pieces shipped all over the world,” Bruno says. In a broad sense, 1stdibs helped transform the rarified world of unusual art objects into an open marketplace. But perhaps more notably, Bruno says, “1stdibs is a place where collections are born.” […]
To create the marketplace and build inventory, he and Jakowec would visit dealers, make a pitch and photograph their goods, often on the spot. French dealers were initially skeptical, but once a few dealers got on board, word-of-mouth spread quickly. By 2003, Bruno and Jakowec had turned their attention stateside: first to the Hamptons, where both men were well connected in the art world, then to dealers in New York City, San Francisco, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and so on. A watershed moment came in 2003 when the late Vogue photographer and antique dealer Roger Prigent invited Bruno to his town house for a catch-up and then called half a dozen of the most important dealers in Manhattan to urge them to sign up. For more than a decade, Bruno oversaw every aspect of the company, which now also sells jewelry and vintage clothing. By 2011, 1stdibs had a network of 1,200 dealers who were selling 6,000 items a month, at an average price of $5,000.