Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Tim Goodman and Simon de Pury are embracing the digital revolution, looking to challenge a centuries-old business model with a footloose approach to selling art and antiques at auction.

Goodman's Fine Art Bourse (FAB) hopes to gain traction in the market via an innovative pricing model. Meanwhile de Pury's eponymously titled firm is promising to reduce buyer's fees to 15%.

The headline statistic at FAB is that they will charge vendor's and buyer's fees of just 5% with a 72-hour packing and shipping service - so often a barrier to entry for bidding online - 'free' for both buyers and sellers.

They add that transaction charges will be exempt of sales taxes or artist resale royalties, as sales are processed through headquarters in Hong Kong.

However, the devil is in the detail. Alongside the 5% cut, consigners and purchasers will each be billed an additional fixed fee to cover other charges. The 'fixed lot selling fee' of $330 applies for items estimated up to $100,000 and $1000 for items estimated at over $100,000. This covers collection, storage and photography while the 'fixed lot buying fee' at the same rates pays for packing, shipping and delivery.

Sellers will also responsible for paying insurance costs of 1%. As our table of examples shows, the pricing model is designed to reward sellers of higher-priced items, but at lower thresholds it is less attractive.

Goodman, former head of both Bonhams & Goodman and Sotheby's Australia, likens the current wave of digital development to the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889, as firms such as Auctionata, The Auction Room and Paddle 8 compete to see who can be first with the best way to sell art online. While the technology is no longer the challenge, so far few vendors of blue-chip art and antiques have been persuaded to leave 'bricks and mortar' behind. 

Hoping to change that, Goodman has raised $3m in funding (major shareholders include entrepreneurs from Sydney, Bangalore and Beijing) and recruited 30 consultant specialists located in the Americas, Asia and Europe to generate and catalogue consignments. London representatives include the picture dealer Rupert Maas.

Goodman believes the traditional auction business model - one where an auction house can take proceeds of up to 50% from the sale of a work of art - is no longer sustainable.

"Something has to give. All we have done is apply digital technology to some of the good old ways and cut costs," he says. Cost cutting includes no printed catalogues, few full time members of staff and "humble" premises around the world.

Consignments are being invited for the first sale - conducted on a 'fixed time' auction platform - on September 14.

Simon de Pury returns

'Boutique' auctioneer Simon de Pury also announced his return to the market with a new online business: de Pury.

Backed by e-commerce entrepreneur Klaus Hommels, and supported by Mallett who will provide logistical support and a bricks-and-mortar Mayfair viewing venue in the run-up to sales, de Pury hopes to turn his exceptional contacts and social media clout (almost 130,000 followers on Instagram) into an online buying audience.

The firm again plans to pass on the cost savings from an online-only catalogues and footloose premises by charging a discounted buyer's premium of 15% up to $2m and 12% thereafter, against the market benchmarks of 25% and 12%.

The first 400-lot sale on October 12 is titled A Visual Odyssey: Selections from LAC (the Lambert Art Collection) and mixes contemporary art and modern design with 18th century French furniture and objets d'art.

It marks Simon de Pury's first commercial auction since leaving Phillips de Pury in 2012 and his first move into the digital sphere.