NEWS: Art Business Conference highlights

The Art Business Conference took place in Westminster last week just a stones throw from Parliament where politicians were discussing a bill ruling out a no-deal Brexit. While Brexit was very much a topic of discussion among the speakers and delegates, the conference also covered related topics such as exporting works from countries across Europe and the increasing diversity of buyers at art and antiques auctions.

ATG’s COO Richard Lewis took part in The Auction View panel, discussing the drivers of a growing diversity of buyers at art and antiques auctions. Laura Chesters, Antiques Trade Gazette, summarises the topics discussed:

Diversity of buyers
The buyers of art and antiques in the so called ‘mid-market’ auction sector has diversified in recent years with a big growth of women and under 44-year-olds, according to The Auction View panel. Delegates heard that buyers were much more diverse and auctioneers can no longer rely on just the trade.

Adrian Biddell of Chiswick Auctions said: “Everybody’s buying habits have changed. Everyone has more knowledge and more access. People are more eclectic. The buyer is much more varied. There is a lot more texture in the market. There is a lot more diversity: more women, a variety of different buyers. One of the motors behind our growth is that 50% of our buyers are online. It has helped us expand globally.”

Richard Lewis at Auction Technology Group said: “Over the past five years we are seeing many more occasional collectors (buying less than five times a year). Previously it would be serious buyers and the trade. Those buyers are still there but the occasional buyer has increased. The number of women buyers has also grown.”

Lewis, speaking about ATG’s platform the-saleroom.com, which hosts 7,000 auctions a year for 500 auction houses, added: “We have tripled our buyers and there are more younger people buying. The age bracket of 25-44 year olds has really grown. We have more than doubled the number of bidders that register for sales. This is because we have invested in technology: we completely revamped our site, SEO, email marketing.”

Thomas Galbraith, CEO at auction house Hindman gave his perspective from the US. Hindman uses a number of aggregator platforms including Invaluable and LiveAuctioneers and said around 80% of its business is online. However Galbraith said it is still crucial to have offices and physical salerooms to succeed. He said: “We have 10 offices across the US and have more salerooms than any other auction house there. If you are going to serve the community then you need to be in community.”

Austrian auction house Dorotheum does not sell directly online but director Martina Batovic explained: “We stopped being an Austrian auction house offering Austrian art to Austrian buyers. With the internet we are an international business.”

“We have had buyers in their 20s who are starting out to established collectors. We have a huge mix of demographic, geographic and wealth background.”

Biddell concurred that physical locations and the local community are important. He said: “We have created events such as our recent Summer Festival around our auctions. This event was great for the local community and our profile.”

Art exports in Europe: the rules, regulation and pitfalls
Delegates at the conference also heard from experts on how to export from countries across Europe. On top of the new European Union regulation on cultural property exportation, individual countries in Europe have introduced and updated laws for the export and import of cultural property.

Mark Dodgson Secretary General of the BADA spoke from the audience and said discussions with the EU will need to continue to understand how the new EU export of cultural property laws will work practically. In the meantime there remain significant challenges in the exportation of art and antiques.

Read more here.

Image (L-R): Richard Lewis of Auction Technology Group, Austrian auction house Dorotheum’s UK director Martina Batovic, The Art Newspaper’s Anna Brady, Adrian Biddell of Chiswick Auctions, and Thomas Galbraith, CEO at US auction house Hindman.