Everybody is talking about art today, and the interest for auctions and used items only seems to be increasing. If it's not the summer flea market trips, it's the latest gossip from the auction houses celebrity filled VIP viewings around Old Bond Street or Rockefeller Plaza. Or it's the rumor of new players like the Swedish search site Barnebys that revolutionizes the market with a new business model in search of a new generation of auction buyers.

If you're not seen, you don't exist In the end the market seems to have grabbed the attention of the younger target group that has been so fiercely coveted for the past few decades but have been out of reach until now. The icing on the cake is that the auction houses, no matter their size or geographic location, have noticed how more and more international customers find them. It would be a challenge to find an auctioneer anywhere in the world who doesn't experience this. The market is global. And that is how it will stay.

The players now have to get accustomed to an increase in globalization as well as new advanced buying behavior and new client needs. Everybody wins when the transport issue is solved, but the question is who is will recognize the need for a global service that offers cheap, fast, practical transport solutions with door-to-door service. While the auction houses have to offer quicker customer service and increased visibility on search sites such as Barnebys, which makes it easier to find what you're looking for while simultaneously breaking down some of the barriers to the auction world that have previously been excluding to outsiders, to say the least.

The 8.41-Ct internally flawless purple-pink diamond auctioned off by Sotheby's The 8.41-Ct internally flawless purple-pink diamond auctioned off by Sotheby's

Advanced buying behavior has moved online

The past few years have seen the online market growing by around 20 percent per year and according to The 2014 Hiscox Online Art Trade Report, 22% of the group of art buyers in their 20s-30s have purchased art without visiting a physical room to view the art "in real life". An impressive number. So impressive that venture capitalists have been unable resist swarming like flies around a sugar cube on a hot summer day. Never before has the interest in investing in companies that, directly or indirectly, deal in art, design or antiquities been so strong.

New capital changes the playing field

During 2014 almost 20 million dollars of global risk capital has been pumped into companies that list art, auction houses, galleries and antique dealers in the form of platforms and search engines if you are to believe Skate's annual report.

In the past many auction houses have been at a loss when faced with the virtual development. Which results in many choosing to make their catalog and bidding functions available through a third party platform. In this regard the auction houses have lost control over their clients, their transactions and their own fate. Something that has also affected the auction buyer that then has to pay higher provision fees compared to what they would have paid if they had bought directly from the auction house's website. Which indirectly affects the sellers, not to mention the auction houses since the bidders then place lower amounts. But the oddest factor remains. Which is that the auction houses pay to drive traffic (i.e visitors) from their own site to that of the platform. The relationship should be reversed. If the platforms are getting paid they should be directing visitors to the auction house sites.

With this comes a barrage of brand new or developing auction systems such as British Bidlogix and German AuctioNovo or the latest addition, American Bid Square, that have emerged in order to be sold to auction houses around the world. Not to mention the auction houses that have been bought out, merged with or started up from scratch with the help of venture capital or borrowed money.

It's been said that the art and auction fields are the new biotech field, meaning one of the most obsolete and outdated fields with large growth potential. The word growth is known to wake even the most dormant venture capitalist from their slumber and open their eyes to the possibility to make a killing if you bet on the right horse.

Mass-market and luxury brands

More auction houses want to profile themselves in a greater extent through a wider range of both product and supply. Some choose to gradually increase the volume of simpler objects at lower prices by only selling them online and therefore attracting new target groups, cutting costs and increasing revenue. Some have even attempt to challenge international giant E-bay and their supply, while others choose to market themselves by strengthening their brand with luxury items in order to reach well-funded clients.

But the greatest challenge is to broaden growth by making it easier buy at auction and create new business models. A challenge that the entire field shares. With a global market there is no end to the possibilities.

Christie's Christie's

Auction houses increase at the expense of the trade

Up to the 1970's there were barely any individuals other than collectors that bought at auction. During that time auctions were likened to marketplaces for wholesalers. In the 80's the auction houses flirted all the more lightheartedly with individuals in order to broaden the customer base. Today, thirty years later, it is the individuals that are in the forefront. With a growing intensity the auction houses lay claim to even more of the art and antiquities share of the market. One result of this that all the more auction houses increase their activity within Private Sales and curate exhibits in order to reach clients that up till now have been inaccessible. So far the auction field has managed to get further than most art and antiquities dealers, who have struggled to mobilize command and resolve to take advantage of the possibilities that come with new trends and technological developments. The auction houses head start seems to be increasing, partly due to the traditional trade that has seen more and more dealers switch over to auctioneers in the past few years. I however, am convinced that we will see new initiatives within the art and antiquities trade together with e-commerce platforms and new marketing techniques in the near future.

Knowledge provides a head start

The access to objects has never been greater. Knowledge is essential, which gives the antiquities trade a considerable head start with management that is only increasing in speed, where generous possibilities are created for those who take advantage of the tools correctly. For the art and antiquities trade it is now even more important to be present at exhibitions and above all, online.

The web is the auction house's most important display case

Christie's Jeremy Langmead, who is in charge of the launch of Christie's new website and new magazine, states that the art market is vibrating with new energy and young people who want to connect with art. Mr. Langmead was involved with the launch of the global online giant Mr Porter, and is well acquainted with the web's determining factor and means that it is still the largest sales space a company has today. This applies to auction houses in the highest possible degree. Even if nothing can replace a person-to-person interaction, the web is the complement that has essentially replaced everything else. Especially if the intent is to build a brand, create volume and reach new client groups and markets.

Even if British TV after seventy years has replaced "the war hour" with black & white Churchill documentaries in the prime time slot with "the Antique hour" with Antiques Roadshow and other modern programming concepts about art and antiquities, it's still not enough. The entire field needs to be thoroughly dusted off and sleepy auctioneers of the old school should prepare themselves for a younger generation that is tired of hearing how great everything used to be. The winds of change are blowing. And a storm is on its way.

Pontus Silfverstolpe