In 2020, auction houses faced an unexpected challenge; due to the pandemic, large gatherings of people were no longer permitted and the majority of bidders would be clicking a mouse as opposed to raising their hands.
Whilst online bidding is not a new concept, the technology continues to improve and evolve and recent developments have proved to be particularly exciting; with little more than a strong wifi connection, a camera and a laptop, auctioneers can host their sales from virtually anywhere that takes their fancy.
It was this compelling notion that piqued my interest and, in turn, led to the establishment of Exhibit Auctions, a boutique auction service unconstrained by fixed premises.
In a nutshell, each auction is broadcast live from a unique setting and consists of a small number of cherry-picked artworks. Bidding can be carried out online in real time or bids can be left in advance. And the best part? There is no buyer’s commission. At traditional auction houses, buyer’s commission is usually set at 20-25%, but at Exhibit Auctions, apart from the cost of delivery, what you bid is what you pay.
I’m taking my travelling rostrum into the studio of each exhibiting artist to broadcast a live online auction, directly from the space in which their artworks were created.
I adore auctioneering and find visiting artists’ working spaces completely fascinating, but these two experiences tend to be nothing alike; in fact, they’re almost diametrically opposed. The ideal auction sale-room is a calming environment, a neat and tidy space in which the lots can be expertly displayed. Furthermore, it’s a space that can be reconfigured with ease to allow it to accommodate lots of all shapes and sizes. By contrast, an artist’s studio tends, at first glance, to represent creative chaos: colourful tubes and brushes of every conceivable size occupy endless shelves; paint of all hues is splattered across every surface; plaster-encrusted pinafores hang rigidly on rusty nails; sponges, set squares, mahlsticks and maquettes…any and every tool that an artist might need is usually within arm’s reach. This set up, more often than not, is practically set in stone.
Over the years, I’ve spoken with potential bidders who admit to being daunted at the thought of crossing the threshold of their local auction house: ‘I’m not familiar with that world’; ‘It’s too confusing’; ‘I wouldn’t know where to start’. Furthermore, I’ve met few admirers of an artist’s work who’ve been bold enough to request a visit to their studio. So, while the sale-room and the studio have little in common aesthetically, I realise that they can prove equally scary and forbidding to the uninitiated.
It’s about time these worlds collided, so I’m taking my travelling rostrum into the studio of each exhibiting artist to broadcast a live online auction, directly from the space in which their artworks were created. If it feels right, I might even hire a pop up space from time to time…there are no hard and fast rules.
Exhibit Auctions is open to everyone and I sincerely hope that you’ll see something you love and that you’ll place a bid with us sometime soon.
Natasha Raskin Sharp,
Exhibit Auctions’ founder and auctioneer
From Our Current Catalogue: