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Born of a deep distrust from a bitter harvest sewn by the seeds of anti-trust and monopoly behaviour by the big two auction houses, and the lengthy legal record of their prosecution by the United States Department of Justice, galleries simply don’t trust auctions. Thus, it should come as no surprise that they vomit daily when receiving auction e-mails from artnet, artsy, artspace, and all of the other conflict of interest dot coms, which they helped nurture with their advertising dollars.

Atop that foundation of distrust, additional revenue generated by the introduction of a buyer’s premium - which the ambulance-chasing, and now redundant dealer associations did nothing about at the time - facilitated the drive for auction retail price point business. Auction houses have, over the course of the past 10 years or so, aggressively moved into the private sales arena, only further encroaching on the dealers’ patch, and - like it or not - some online platforms are moving toward that same territory, at speed.

Online Auctions and The Wild West

While Sotheby’s and Christie’s are both beholden to the department of consumer affairs laws of the City of New York, there are no such boundries in place for online auction / art platforms, operating from offices in NYC and Berlin. 

Online art platforms staging ‘own brand auctions’ is not a conflict of interest in itself, but it does become that when dealers, galleries and artists are subsidizing that platform’s growth. Placing an advertisement, and your cost intensive portfolio that takes years of behind the scenes labour to accumulate, to then display on that gallery profile page with some websites, provides for a very real susceptibility to the hijacking of meta-data as per digitally tracked product interest. 

This brings back memories of a period in time when invaluable (formerly thesaurus) first advertised in the antiques trade gazette, only to have their business model ripped off by the atg, virtually in its entirety.

Cloning your business

Today, the type of meta-data piggyback advertising we are seeing, poses a clear conflict of interest. It’s akin to taking a space in Sotheby’s York Ave, for example, only for them to watch what gets the most interest on your booth, and for them to plan their auction schedule and private sales accordingly.

It seems to be, that some dealers, galleries and artists (and some smaller scale auction houses for that matter), are sleepwalking into oblivion, whilst artsy artspace and artnet, are jamming their own brand auctions into our inboxes, sometimes under the guise of ‘benefit’ auctions, which is getting awfully tiresome.

Art businesses, the decades in the building of knowledge that comes with being a Gallerist, and the entire dealer legacy, is being cloned.

Your META data is being used to facilitate the business models of some online platforms, whilst your working capital and advertising dollars are being used to angel finance, in order for them to develop a ghost protocol for online own-brand in-house auctions and private sales.

One of AAD’s objectives is to publish news that entertains and informs. There are a lot of Art sites out there, but by being bold, fun and without a conflict of interest, we have a space where few Art sites can go.

AAD has no desire to enmesh itself in your business, and we certainly have no wish to compete with our clients in anyway. Dealers consider the obvious and odious conflicts of interest outlined in the above, a repugnant practice, and a complete and utter betrayal of trust on a market wide scale. 

You've been cloned.

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In our next piece on the subject of orwellian online business models, we’ll be taking a closer look at 1stDibs and the ramifications of their apparent recording of phone calls via their call centre, between potential clients and platform tenants in states where jurisdictions deem otherwise illegal.

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About the Author

Elliot Lee

Elliot Lee

Elliot Lee founded his antique business in 1994. Having bought his first Antique piece at the tender age of eleven, it has since then been his passion for Antiques, Fine Art, and aesthetically beautif...