By Nii B. Andrews.
Many art auction houses have closed their doors as the world confronts the challenge of the current pandemic.
The live auction format is now in abeyance.
Most of the flagship auction houses have resorted to online auction sales.
Giles Peppiat the director of CAA at the prestigious auction house, Bonhams said, “We thank our stars that we have online bidding. When online sales first started, all the auctioneers thought it would suck the life out of the auctions. But it’s amazing that the thing we feared most at the time is probably going to be our saviour.”
Of course it helps if the auction house has the financial muscle to invest in, construct and maintain an advanced digital platform.
This is what could place smaller auction houses at a disadvantage.
In our region, it is therefore gratifying to note that Arthouse Contemporary, the flagship Lagos auction house for CAA concluded an online auction of affordable art earlier this week.
At least one prominent dealer and CAA expert opines, that with respect to online auctions, “As long as all the correct people have been made aware and all the correct people have seen the works, you should get pretty much the same price.”
There is a consensus though that with a live auction, buyers tend to bid a bit more freely because they get caught up in the action, in the heat of the moment, the drama, the theatre.
History tells us that people still continued to buy art during periods of war, social stress and high anxiety.
Art has survived periods of disaster as a tangible asset when other investments fail. In this pandemic period though, hardly any “panic sale” offers have occurred. It appears that neither collectors nor dealers have experienced any financial liquidity issues.
The position of a significant number of artists though may be quite different. Some of the government subsidies promulgated to shore up the economy in certain jurisdictions have been earmarked specifically for artists.
Virtual galleries and online auctions and sales are very much the norm at this time.
But there is still a strong expectation among experts that live auctions will return in the not too distant future.