There’s something ineffably glamorous about the paddle-and-gavel brinkmanship of a good live art auction. In an era of Brics and superfund money, and half-billion-dollar seasonal takings at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, one has come to expect such excitement of the art world. But for sellers and collectors alike, the pull of the digital realm – expediency, clarity, the ability to bid remotely – is compelling. Now a group of enterprising young art professionals has come up with a model that leverages both platforms under one umbrella, with an almost “pop-up”-like ethos that’s been fuelling trends in everything from foraging restaurants to fashion.
Art Europeis the brainchild of former Sotheby’s Amsterdam personnel Peter Paul Guthman, Hélène van der Ven and Baukje Coenen, who, together with Guthman’s financier friend Roderick Preys, are launching a dynamic, multiplatform auction brand that will stage sales both live, at locations around the continent, and online.
“The way people collect art has changed,” notes Van der Ven, who started her own fine-art consultancy after working for 15 years as a Sotheby’s senior specialist in modern and contemporary art and 19th-century European paintings, and who grew up steeped in the world of fine art (her late uncle, Clemens van der Ven, was one of the world’s preeminent dealers and collectors of oriental art). “It’s now more eclectic; people look much more often across different genres and periods for the best. That might mean a great Old Master to go over a midcentury couch, or a Warhol next to a Boulle secretaire. We felt it was time for a new and cost-efficient way of selling the works that recognised this shift, while telling a great story.”
As with the big houses, Art Europe’s live sales will cover all the fine arts, along with fashion, wine, contemporary design and watches and jewellery – as often as not, an eclectic edit of all of them at a single sale. Viewings will be accompanied by cocktails, DJs and specialists roving the floors to expound on provenance or answer questions one-to-one with bidders.
Mark your diaries for the first sale, One, which will take place in Amsterdam on Sunday December 13 at Loods 6, a former docklands goods terminal that’s been gorgeously restored as an events and arts-exhibition space. The full catalogue is available on the website; viewing days are December 10-12 and highlights include Lady in a Beach Chair by Isaac Israëls (estimate €75,000-€95,000, second picture), Ron Arad’s Chair Blo-void I 4/20 (€28,000-€32,000, third picture) and Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup I (Consommé Beef) (€12,000-€15,000, first picture).
Thereafter, locations will vary for the six sales that have been planned for 2016; check the website for updates. Buyers will be able to bid online, by phone, in writing or, of course, right on site (yes, Art Europe still believes in paddles – and glamour).