The Future of Online Art Sales: Q&A With Blacklots Co-Founder – artmarkeblog.com
The number of websites that facilitate the online sale and purchase of fine art has increased significantly over the last few years as collectors and investors become more confident in the ability of online art sales portals to provide a sufficiently high level of service, quality art, security and peace of mind.
High-end online art sales portals such as Blacklots, Artnet Auctions, Christie’s, Paddle 8, Saffron Art and Artprice Auctions have emerged as leaders of the online art market due mainly to the reputation and influence of the people involved in the development of these websites.
In this series of interviews, Nicholas Forrest, owner of the Art Market Blog, talks to some of the most influential leaders of the online art market about the future of online art sales and the development of the online art market. In this, the first interview of the series, Minor Childers, the co-founder of online art auction site Blacklots*, discusses the Blacklots.com auction model and the state of the market for online art sales.
Nicholas Forrest: Has the online market for fine art matured to a point where stand-alone ventures relying on the sale of online art are a viable option?
Minor Childers: There are few industries left with the kind of inefficiencies that exist in this market — It’s inevitable. I hope we are the ones to do it. We launched Blacklots in April of last year. From the moment we started we have gotten a positive and engaged reaction from collectors. The global “art market” is huge and roughly 90 percent of the works out there are sold across 3600 auction houses — it’s a very segmented market. It’s an inefficient market, one of the last industries with these kind of inefficiencies — we created Blacklots in response to this.
How would you rate your success?
Since launching in April 2011, we have maintained a sell through rate consistent with the Brick + Mortars. We achieved a record price for an Elad Lassry. See our sold lots section. The response has been amazing from sellers — we receive many unsolicited consignment inquiries a day. Buyers have been surprised about how easy the post sale process is, within a short time their purchase is at their door regardless of where they or the seller is located.
What has been the most significant sale for you to date?
We have had a record sale for a single piece by Elad Lassry (see sold lots section).
We already have online art fairs, galleries and auctions; what is the next step for online art sales?
A platform that serves both the primary and secondary markets.
How does you attract and keep online buyers of fine art?
We have relied on word of mouth to this point.
What are the characteristics of the main buyers of fine art online?
Nothing consistent. We have new collectors and major collectors selling and buying on Blacklots. Collectors who want to sell their contemporary art and both new and existing collectors that want to buy contemporary art. Really on the buy side it is much broader, we are connecting not only with people familiar with this world but also people that are just getting interested and professionals like decorators that need to source multiple works quickly. The whole point of Blacklots is to be a tool, something that makes our lives easier. Blacklots allows many users access to these works that for one reason or another they do not have.
Which countries are the most active with regards to buying art online?
We have have had consignors and buyers from all over the world, but our focus has been the US. We have plans of moving into the UK and Hong Kong markets.
How would you describe the current environment for online art sales?
We are currently selling lots in the $25K and less range, however I think that there is an opportunity to sell higher priced lots. I think the current environment is full of opportunity.
Which mediums are the most popular with online art buyers?
We have sold a variety of mediums. I think types of art like urban art are more accessible for new collectors.
How does your company best take advantage of the online market for fine art?
All the new online art businesses are working in the online space but fundamentally everyone else is focused on the primary market or the gallery system. We are the only one with an auction platform solely focused on the secondary market. We offer collectors the opportunity to sell their lower priced (less than $25K) quality works. As you know, the larger B&M’s would prefer not to consign lots in this price range — It doesn’t make sense for them but it does for us.
What are your plans for the future?
Expanding the price range of our lots, moving into design and getting into the Asia Pacific and UK markets.
*Blacklots is a curated art auction platform for the resale and acquisition of contemporary art. They facilitate art transactions by providing resellers and buyers the means to find and deal directly with one another — in an expedited manner, at lower rates and with a far broader audience than traditional auction houses and dealers. Blacklots is quick, convenient, efficient, and secure — the new way to resell and purchase quality contemporary art
According to the Blacklots website, Minor Childers is an operations specialist with extensive experience in the Internet and film businesses. Most recently, as co-founder and President of Dot Eco, Childers created a partnership with Al Gore, the Sierra Club and other prominent individuals and organizations to acquire the new environmentally focused top-level domain and direct a majority of it’s profits towards fighting climate change. In conjunction with this initiative, Minor also founded the World Carbon Database, a nonprofit open resource which indexes carbon offsets and supports related offset-funded projects.
The Blacklots website can be found at http://www.blacklots.com
**Nicholas Forrest is a Sydney/London based art market analyst, art consultant and writer. He is the founder of the Art Market Blog (artmarketblog.com) which offers independent commentaries as well as research and analysis on the current art market, and has recently been published in Fabrik magazine, Verve magazine, Visual Art Beat magazine, Australian Art Collector magazine, Art & Investment magazine and many others. Nic has made several radio appearances (both nationally and internationally) as an art market expert and has received press from the likes of the New York Times, Conde Nast Portfolio and Times of London.
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