An art work by Zou Shiquan available on Zhao Yong Online Auction
WHAT are the main benefits of an online auction?
They bring new buyers to the table and they provide a link between the old and young generations. Let me use an example: It is similar to the difference between using a telephone and a mobile. The transition of the traditional auction area demands a certain process, and the younger generation will gradually become the main force. They are familiar with the illusionary space. Using real space is costly. So we should think of a certain mode to attract the younger generation. If we can’t attract the main force of our society, then the auction industry faces a difficult situation.
Have online art auctions changed much?
This is an “ecological system” with a wide coverage. Among them, the most important thing is macro environment, policy and the technological development. For example, Hosane Auction House had both online and offline auctions early in 2008. But at that time, we didn’t succeed. The reason is simple, there was not enough bandwidth and the Internet speed was too slow. We had big problems uploading characters, not to mention pictures. This hindered the user experience. The ability of industry professionals like museum and auction house employees, artists and collectors to use the Internet was also a direct factor in forming this “ecological system.” But I believe that online art auctions are the future. About 20 years from now, they might exceed traditional art auctions. Internet auctions open a new space. They don’t just compete with the traditional market.
Will you cooperate with Taobao in the future?
Currently we do not have any plan to be on Taobao. First, the image of Taobao, in the eyes of many, is still related to the small-commodity market in Yiwu. There are few big luxury brands on Taobao, let alone art. In fact, art is superior to luxury goods and belongs to a spiritual area. Secondly, the traditional auction process is totally different than what Taobao provides. Taobao caters to one-time consumption. For example, if you buy a dress on Taobao today, you seldom will sell it the next day. But artwork is a secondary market. Taobao lacks the back stage and data acquisition for the secondary market. So it is difficult for us to have long-term cooperation with Taobao.
Once online auctions become mainstream then the whole industry chain will change. What opportunities do you see developing?
Everyone is still in the exploration process. You could only turn back and take a look once the chain becomes fully developed. While in the middle, it is very hard to see which direction it is going, but I believe it is moving to the positive part. Logistics, in my eyes, is a business opportunity.
There is hardly any logistics for artwork in China, but it is now quite mature in Europe. I believe there must be an enterprise in China that will fill this void. Moreover, once the enterprise moves to its electronic business, then the channel to obtain its information will also be changed. The buyers will be informed via magazines and newspapers, and then there will be fewer auction catalogues, which is also a good thing for environmental protection.
Certainly online art auctions will attract more buyers, but will the increased number of buyers on the Internet “dilute” the buyers for high-end art pieces?
What the electronic business brings in the auction area is the revolutionary change of the whole industry. The change in the competition is only the change of the market share for the auction houses. The number of high-end artworks for sale is small and only a small group can afford such purchases. Changing the sales medium won’t “dilute” the buyers.