In the beginning of 2020, most of the world went under lockdown because of the Corona virus outbreak. Galleries and auction houses had to close their doors and postpone sales. When restrictions eased, we noticed a significant increase in online bidding. This meant that auction houses had to adjust and make their sales more accessible to absentee bidders.
Pre lockdown viewings and auction rooms used to be busy with potential buyers, but this has all changed now. Instead, sale rooms are shifting towards a more virtual concept where through a video call, clients can access the lots offered for sale. During the actual auction chairs are placed with 2 meters apart and visits are by appointment only.
How have this affected the art market and the way we bid in auctions? Is online bidding the way forward and a new normal?
With no vaccine in the immediate future, sale rooms have perhaps permanently changed the way they carry out auctions. They have made it easier for customers to leave phone and absentee bids or use their online services to secure a piece of jewellery, a watch, or whatever object offered for sale. With modern technology most auctions are live streamed and there is no longer a need to come to the actual sale. As the number of people allowed in the room during a sale is limited, and several areas still under travel restrictions bidding from home has become a new normal. As a result, many auction houses have increased their total sale and seen an increase in bids and new registrations. Most recently Michael Jordan’s used Nike trainers sold for a record price of £460,000 and four of Jean-Claude Biver’s Patek Philippe watches hammered a total of almost £6.4 million.
The online bidding trend is here to stay. As we no longer need to be present in the room during the actual sale, we can participate in several auctions at the same time without having to travel anywhere. The downside is, we will no longer be able to experience the atmosphere in the room during an auction, and we will no longer be able to see who our bidding competitors are. If this is the new normal, we may no longer need an actual auctioneer to hold sales and the traditional way of auctioneering will forever change.