Financial Review: Transparency in the world of art

Imagine bidding more than $US 2.3 million for an original watercolour by Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele, not over the telephone, nor as an absentee bidder, but through a website. One lucky bidder acquired Schiele’s Reclining Woman two years ago through Auctionata. The Berlin-based start-up is disrupting the mid-range market that falls between eBay and traditional houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s with live, streaming auctions of art, jewellery, collectibles and other items.

amy guttman financial review Transparency in the world of art
Photo: Jessica Shapiro

Launched in 2013, by Austrians Alexander Zacke, with a 25-year pedigree in the auction business, and CTO Georg Untersalmberger, Auctionata recently raised $US 45 million ($58.7 million) in a round of funding.

Zacke came up with the concept after years of working at a traditional auction house.

“There was a very high-end, traditional market and a very low-end, peer-to-peer market. The problem with the mid-market – which is, by far, the largest chunk of the market – is that peer-to-peer doesn’t work, because people don’t want to risk their money beyond a certain point. And that price point is very low – in the hundreds, if that much.”