Online auction site Auctionata, which held "the first interactive art auction worldwide in the history of the Internet," according to CEO Alexander Zacke, has had no lack of news lately, recently raising $20 million (€15.5M) in a new round of funding, led by Earlybird Venture Capital. It also has a particularly exciting work of art coming up for sale on June 21: an Egon Schiele piece entitled "Reclining Woman"; a gouache, watercolour, and pencil on paper.
Schiele is a famous Austrian painter who gained notoriety in the early 20th century, and here in the 21st century, he has quite a few admirers as well: one fan page on Pinterest which features a collection of Schiele's paintings has nearly 25,000 followers.
EcommerceBytes/The AuctionBytes Blog caught up with Auctionata's Alexander Zacke to see what the highlights have been since the site debuted last February, get some backstory on the Schiele piece, and find out how the company plans to grow with its latest infusion of capital.
"Since last February, Auctionata has grown hugely and developed tremendously fast," said Zacke. "We started in February 2012 with a tiny team in Berlin and just one employee. Today, we have 100 employees and offices in Berlin and New York."
Some fun facts from Zacke:
- "Over 21,000 requests for professional appraisal services have been processed.
- "Our expert network has grown to 250 internationally renowned specialists (who appraise and curate all objects for sale), the largest network of experts worldwide.
- "Objects valued at more than $91.1M (€70M) have already been appraised by Auctionata experts.
- "On the day our website first went online, we received less than 100 visitors. Today, that figure reaches 15,000 per day."
Their new online shop was launched in September 2012, and has gone from having 300 items to now more than 5,000 items. "By June, this number will be 10,000," said Zacke. Each item has a 25-year authenticity guarantee.
The Egon Schiele Piece's Amazing Discovery Story
The Schiele piece has its own incredible history worthy of any episode of "Antiques Roadshow." It was discovered in a private estate by one of Auctionata's experts. "While searching through an old library, they stumbled upon a portfolio of prints from 1917 and found the original watercolour, Reclining Woman, between the prints," he said. They then presented it to Jane Kallir, author of the catalogue raisonné Egon Schiele, The Complete Works, who authenticated it after a thorough examination.
The consignor of Egon Schiele’s forgotten watercolour would not have dreamed of what an unbelievable story would unfold from her search for professional appraisal of her father’s large estate. "The painting along with the portfolio nearly ended up in the paper bin while we were looking through my father’s belongings," she said. "It lay hidden in the portfolio for generations, with no one aware of its existence and true value except for my father." The consignor said that finding a professional, experienced advisor to handle her father’s estate, consisting of diverse works of art, turned out to be difficult. But "after an extensive search, I finally came across Auctionata and its large
online expert network. Within two hours after sending my valuation request, an expert called me back and we set up a meeting for a free valuation," she said.
Zacke said that for the first time in history, "a German full-service auction house has managed to obtain one of Egon Schiele’s most important works for an online auction,"
adding that the piece is one of Schiele's rare works from 1916, a year in which he produced only a few works of art due to his service in the Austrian army.
So how much might this piece bring? In the past, comparable watercolours by Schiele have sold at international auctions for up to $10 million (€7.5 million), said Zacke. And recently, the Schiele drawing "Lovers" set a new auction record for works on paper by the artist with an auction price of $12.4 million (€9.2 million).
Other Special Items
In terms of special items which have sold in the past, some highlights of their first live auction on December 7, 2012 were:
- A spinach green Jade Gui Vessel with Qianlong Mark, Qing Dynasty, with a starting price of 30,000 EUR, which was sold for 75,000 EUR.
- A Precious white Jade pendant with falcon and fawn, Qing Dynasty with a starting price of 1,500 EUR, was sold for 30,000.00 EUR
- Reinhold Nägele’s Tempera “Arosa in the Snow” (1933), 1,800 EUR starting price, changed hands for 13,000 EUR.
- A Signed Ivory Sundial by Conrad Karner, early 17th Century, starting price 1,500 EUR, was sold for 3,800 EUR.
Does Zacke see any trends in the kinds of things that are selling? "We can say that the leading objects to get more attention are fine arts, watches and jewelry," he said.
TV Studio and New Auction Format Coming
With the new funding money, Auctionata will be able to make a number of improvements, including building their own TV studio. They also will be introducing a "brand new auction format that "turns every auction into an exciting event you won’t want to miss," he said. "Our live auctions offer you much more than what you know from traditional auctions held in auction halls. Specially produced video clips and an entirely new means of presentation provide you much more information about the objects on offer."
Zacke said that Full-HD cameras with macro lenses will provide participants with "close-up details of the items being auctioned which would not be apparent on first viewing; you will see exceedingly sharp images from a variety of angles." Auctionata's experts can show the items under auction and respond to any questions live from the main studio.
"Apart from that, we are advancing our global expansion, our recruiting and our technology platform growth," said Zacke.