NEW YORK - Let's say you're not a millionaire but you're still interested in buying affordable art from the comfort of your living room. Where do you find something that is between craft-oriented websites like Etsy and high-end auction houses like Sotheby's? Now, new companies — like Paddle8,
In a sun-drenched loft near downtown Los Angeles, carefully coiffed curatorial assistants are talking art with buyers over the phone. This is the West Coast office of Paddle8, an online marketplace that sells mid-range art. It was co-founded in 2011 by Alexander Gilkes, 35, formerly the chief auctioneer for Phillips, the third-largest auction house.
Much of the art on his site is within reach of a middle-class consumer, he says: "Our average selling price across the site is $5,000."
Online art sales went up more than 30 percent last year, according to an analysis by the European Fine Art Fair. It found the online market is mostly mid-range art — a growing and lucrative — niche. Even Sotheby's teamed up with eBay this spring, after its online art sales shot up 100 percent last year, according to a company video.
Like eBay, Paddle8 is an auction site, but unlike eBay, everything's curated and authenticated. And being in the digital space comes with some economic advantages that Paddle8 says it passes along to its customers. For example, Paddle8 does not have to staff and schedule expensive viewings in posh locations or take months to produce costly catalogs.