Hubert Wang

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First Time Auction Experience and Thoughts

Illustration from Bēhance, all rights owned by creators, Link

On 9/1/2021, I attended my first contemporary auction hosted by Heritage Auction via Artsy platform, and here are some interesting thoughts from me.

  1. The final price I got from the auction is much lower than the ones on the retail site due to sparse bids / low fluidity.
    • Who decides the price of art?
    • How to determine the “proper” price of art?
      • has crawlers to pull historical auction prices 17th century - Learnt from MiDi
  2. Information Asymmetry between online and offline bidders is inevitable
    • Offline bidders have the opportunity to touch the actual art pieces and get comprehensive information on the auction slots.
    • Inconsistent slot description between platforms widens the information asymmetry. An interesting example is the bid I won: The slot descriptive pictures missed the most important picture on the art piece itself, instead only has the envelope of the art piece on Artsy website comparing with Heritage’s website. In this way, the auction attendees on Artsy missed the important information if they didn’t check Heritage website or went to auction preview offline.
    • Network latency is crucial for the biding scenario.
    • Offline bidders are impacted by the auctioneer’s auction chant. Yet Online bidders are less impacted to keep calm and make calm decisions.
      • AR / VR can be a good tech to use in these scenarios?
      • Metaverse / Gamification experience to make it more interactive and playful?
  3. Auction data is invaluable for art investors. Art toy is the new cash cow in the market.
    • This auction is a mix of multi-types of art pieces though majorly contemporary. I’m quite surprised to grasp the trend of art toys collection. Art toy is the most popular category with most of the slots ending with final prices that exceed the upper bound of price range suggestion.
    • The higher fluidity makes art toys a good category to invest in (at least for now).
    • Artist popularity is everything. Now I can understand Takashia a bit on why his art prints remain popular even many people critics for their artistry.
    • Historical auction data tells the current trend of collection. Who owns this data and how is the data conveyed to collectors at cost? (The mentioned above is one of the dealers in the area.)
      • Is there any opportunity in this area using ML, personalized recommendation, any competitors in this area?
  4. What’s the underlying logic of 25% “buyer’s premium” on Artsy and other platforms?
    • Interestingly this article mentioned some online-only auctions charge “3% internet costs” in addition to 25% buyer’s fee.
  5. List of auction platforms by category (excerpted from MiDi’s Bilibili video):

    • Traditional auction house
      • Philips, Christie's, Sotheby's, Poly
    • Auction collection online
      • Auctionata, Paddle 8
    • To 3P auctioneers
      • Live Auctioneers
    • Gallery retails
      • Artsy, eBay
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