Top Auction Houses of 2016: Invaluable

Top Auction Houses of 2016: Invaluable
Bernard Buffet’s "Nature morte" (1953) sold on June 6 at Artcurial via Invaluable for $257,868.
(Artcurial )

The following Q&A appeared in Art+Auction’s summer issue, which profiles the world’s top auction houses of 2016. ARTINFO will be publishing the articles from this issue over the next few days. Click here to see related stories from the issue. To find all our coverage of the 250 Best Auction Houses Worldwide, as well as Blouin Artinfo’s top picks for the best in visual arts, architecture and design, performing arts, lifestyle, and culture and travel, visit our Top Lists page at blouinartinfo.com/toplists.

Invaluable
Headquarters: Boston
Rob Weisberg

CEO

Since joining Invaluable in 2012, Weisberg has overseen the company as it sweeps through the auction industry, bringing international houses large and small onto its online platform. With next-generation technology, Invaluable is driving an evolution in the traditional model.

How is Invaluable’s model different from those of other online auction entities? 
We unified a historically fragmented market with the launch of our “Buy Now” offering this past March. The feature gives galleries and dealers the opportunity to join our existing auction house partners to offer their one-of-a-kind merchandise for immediate purchase in the Invaluable marketplace. We are vastly increasing the supply of merchandise available online—including both primary- and secondary-market works—making it easier to connect buyers with the things they love. In addition, we have built the fastest, most secure and stable live auction platform in the industry, processing more live auction bids than any other marketplace. Our partners benefit from our proprietary high-speed broker architecture, which is based on similar technology that is used by many of the world’s largest trading exchanges. Our live video streaming platform, which complements our transactional system, is the most advanced video broadcast solution currently available in the auction industry; it allows us to support hundreds of thousands of viewers at once. Invaluable was selected by eBay as its exclusive partner for live auctions due in no small part to the quality of our technology platform.

What current trends does Invaluable see in the industry overall?
We are seeing the largest migration in the history of the art world. Auction houses, galleries, and dealers are all moving to sell online. Top-tier auction houses are coming to Invaluable as a partner to extend their reach and engage with new audiences, which is vitally important to reach the next generation of buyers. We recently conducted a survey of attitudes toward art among members of the U.S. general population, which showed that millennials are discovering art through social media channels like Instagram and Pinterest, and that they prefer to purchase art online. As millennials age, and their income continues to rise, we can anticipate that they will continue to purchase the things they love online and through their mobile devices, so the benefits of a robust digital strategy will continue to grow. The survey results also showed that millennials see the long-term value in purchasing art, and believe that buying art is a good investment. To me, this spotlights a tremendous growth opportunity to reach new segments of buyers. We are seeing strong growth in the mobile space and more young collectors coming online to purchase art. We know that technology will continue to play a critical role in engaging and connecting this generation to the art world.

How is this year shaping up compared to last year, which saw 60 percent growth?
This year got off to an incredible start. After a record year in 2015, during which we grew the number of new buyers on Invaluable by 67 percent and welcomed 575 auction houses to the marketplace, we had real momentum. We currently work with nearly half of the top 250 auction houses in the world, and we’ve added 20 more since the beginning of this year, which makes me very proud of my team’s efforts and bodes well for the future. Before announcing our new “Buy Now” initiative, we kicked off 2016 with the launch of our new payment platform to make it easier for buyers to make purchases.

More and more collectors are using mobile devices to search for and purchase art. What sorts of mobile technology are you developing to reach these collectors?
The iPad is replacing the paddle at auction houses around the world. It’s exciting that Invaluable is in a unique position to introduce a younger, tech-savvy consumer to the art and auction industry. Currently, more than 40 percent of all traffic to Invaluable is coming through mobile devices, and we expect this number will continue to rise significantly this year. The Invaluable app for iPad and iPhone features exclusive “swipe to bid” technology, which provides our users with an easy, reliable way to place bids in real time during live auction sales. Our app also allows users to bid in a live auction within the app while simultaneously browsing other auctions, which many users appreciate. In addition, our app supports the ability for bidders to participate in timed online-only auctions, and it offers a recommendation engine to help users more easily find lots of interest. Users can utilize the app to create a new account, leave absentee bids on auction lots in advance of the live auction, and manage their auction registrations, absentee bids, and watched lots.

How do you see the relationship between online marketplaces and brick-and-mortar houses evolving?
It’s becoming more and more important for auction houses, galleries, and dealers to establish a strong digital footprint, both online and mobile. According to the Hiscox report, 92 percent of online art buyers expect to buy more or the same amount of art online in the next 12 months, which we love to see, and further proves how important it is for brick-and-mortar auction houses to have an online presence.