Katya Kazakina explains how the supposedly $3.3bn in online sales goes largely untraced after the hammer falls. With the exception of Auctionata and Heritage (and reportedly Artnet some time this fall), online sales are not reported to art price databases nor are they recorded on many sites:
“People thought that the art market going online would make things more transparent, and it’s doing completely the opposite,” said Clare McAndrew, founder of Dublin-based Arts Economics, a research and consulting firm specializing in the art market.
The five-year contemporary art rally has fueled a surge in online auctions and opened the doors for new companies that are betting consumers will buy works by Warhol and Banksy while lounging at home in their pajamas. Unlike regular auctions at Sotheby’s (BID), Christie’s or Phillips, where estimates and prices are posted on the auction houses’ websites and filtered into databases that track sold and unsold lots, results of online auctions often aren’t published, making an already opaque art market even less transparent. […]
At Paddle8’s 10-day “Currency” auction, the seven purchased pieces tallied $14,950, a fraction of the $264,700 high target set by the auctioneer. The most expensive work sold was Kate Brinkworth’s painting of red and black dices and other gambling paraphernalia, estimated at $4,000 to $6,000. The final bid was $3,500. The price isn’t in Artnet’s database. […]
Online auctions tend to focus on the lower- and middle market, with most pieces selling for less than $100,000. Among the bigger items, a 2009 drawing by Richard Serra, “Pamuk,” fetched $905,000 at Christie’s online-only sale on May 14 — a record, if anyone had kept track. […]
“The fact that they are not talking about it too much means it’s still at the very early stages,” she said. “If they were doing really well, there’s no doubt they would tell you everything.”