For all the things Artnet Auctions does right — placing comparable sold items on their site, easily accessible lot item provenance, artist bios, condition reports and even an ebay-like “purchase now” button, I haven’t noticed a lot of buying going on. Were I a collector I’d have a few problems with the fact that the work’s date of execution is listed low enough on the page that you have to scroll down to see it, but that aspect of the web design seems a pretty minor problem in the scope of things.
Like any other auction house, the biggest concern this site has is finding and making desirable material available for sale. Artnet auctions is a new site, so perhaps their slim offerings are understandable, but it doesn’t give a buyer much reason to peruse the site. Take for example the Andy Warhol’s currently up for auction. Three works by the artists are available, all of which were made in eighties, two of which fall into the God awful print variety, and the other is a more popular, yet fairly unattractive dollar sign screenprint on board.
At present the auction reminds me a little of the Sotheby’s online auctions 2002-2003 which mostly consisted of crap art dealers couldn’t get rid of. It seems there’s a little more worth looking at on artnet, but online outfit themselves told me yesterday they typically don’t take work from private collectors, which means work offered was available for sale prior to the auction. This doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for success.
When asked about the rationale behind this policy I received a number of explanations ranging from, “We focus on modern and contemporary works that have a strong secondary market” to something about how there’s a limit to the amount of material they can put online with the staff resources they have, so they prioritize dealers. Needless to say, I still don’t understand the policy. It would seem auction houses such as Phillips de Pury, and Christies still offer more to buyers than artnet, and if the company wants to succeed, it’s going to have to work hard to compete.