Buying art online has suddenly become ubiquitous. The new platforms are throwing parties in Miami, partnering with museums to organize their gala auctions, or providing media partnerships, but this relatively new sector is still trying to understand if they should disrupt a market or willingly dangle itself to be co-opted by the major old-school auction houses.
Artnet has been the quiet leader, as well as an anomaly, of the pack. It’s ancient—twenty-five years old—and is a publicly held company with offices in New York, Berlin, London, and Beijing. In the late Eighties, feeling threatened by artnet’s pursuit to make information transparent to the market, a number of auction houses unsuccessfully tried to sue the young company. It struggled for years as auctioneers and major galleries were uncooperative, but its perseverance to make access to data easy and to democratize the transaction of purchasing art has come full circle. Today, the same auction houses and galleries are all artnet clients.