Auctions Market United Kingdom

Online auctioneers raise the stakes with no buyer’s premium sales

Paddle8 and Dreweatts & Bloomsbury’s partnership challenges the norms

Roy Lichtenstein's Wallpaper With Blue Floor Interior (c.260), 1992, est £15,000-£20,000

Paddle8, the online auctioneer, has joined forces with the UK’s regional bricks-and-mortar auction house, Dreweatts & Bloomsbury, to host a series of four, online-only auctions that charge no buyer’s premium. The move shows the extent that the internet is—finally, some might say—challenging the tried-and-tested business models of the art market, particularly for lower-priced works.

The major auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s currently charge a 25% commission to buyers of works worth up to $50,000 (or £25,000), including on transactions made online. Dreweatts & Bloomsbury usually charges 24% on works worth up to £150,000, while Paddle8 has a 15% buyer’s premium. All the auction houses also charge a seller’s fee, which tends to top around the 15% level, though this is discretionary and varies wildly.

The first auction of the Paddle8 and Dreweatts & Bloomsbury “Unconditional” series offers 91 prints and photographs by Modern and contemporary artists. Bidding opens on Friday 15 August and runs until 31 August. Price estimates range from £500 to £40,000, with works including Roy Lichtenstein’s Wallpaper with blue floor screenprint, 1992 (est £15,000-£20,000), Joan Miro’s lithograph The Rustics, 1969 (est £3,500-£4,500) and Julie Mehretu’s Untitled (Pulse), 2013 (lithograph, est £2,500-£3,500).

Andrew Gully, a spokesman for Sotheby’s, says: “This is a time of great potential and opportunity for the art market in the online world and we can expect to see many different efforts as companies experiment with ideas. Overall, it’s very exciting to watch. One thing seems clear—collectors all over the world will benefit from these efforts to improve access to artwork.” In July, the auction house announced a revenue-sharing partnership with the online mass-retailer eBay.

Correction: Paddle8 charges a 15% buyer’s premium, not 6% as was originally reported.

Joan Miro, The Rustics, 1969, est £3,500-£4,500
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