Opinion

The online gold art rush

Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel, the silicon chip maker, is now best known for his 1965 law. Moore’s law stated that the number of transistors in a circuit was doubling every year (in 1975 he changed it to every two years). His prediction has been accurate, partly because hardware companies use it when forecasting.

Moore’s law now also applies to online art auction sites. Every year the number of online sites is roughly doubling.

This week alone we had two very credible launches: Simon de Pury’s online site De Pury (no prizes for originality) and Tim Goodman’s Fine Art Bourse (or FAB like the UK ice lolly).

Both founders are impressive. De Pury was, of course, former chairman and chief auctioneer of Phillips de Pury and chairman for Europe at Sotheby’s. Goodman was head of both Bonhams & Goodman and founder of Sotheby’s Australia.

Goodman has described the launch of art sites as being like the 1849 California gold rush. This almost offers too many metaphors: success for a few, failure for most, existing large companies surviving and so on.

But the big difference is that the miners who made the most money were the ones who got there first. Whilst this applies to traditional auction houses, with pure online auctions sites it could well be the opposite. The pessimistic definition of a pioneer is someone lying on the ground with arrows in their back.

Image Courtesy of John Louis under creative commons license.

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Alasdair Whyte

Alasdair Whyte

Alasdair is a financial journalist writing about art. He has focused on high value asset finance since 1998. As well as Private Art Investor, he also edits Corporate Jet Investor (despite knowing very little about aircraft) and Helicopter Investor (ditto).