Rupert Basham discovers an auctioneers’ hub in Kensington which is about to stream selected sales onto the web.
DON'T mention eBay to George Duckett. As one of two men behind British and Continental Pictures, a new web-based auction house, his take on the online market is somewhat different to that of the global giants.
Instead of forcing bidders to constantly refresh their screen to see if some rival has swept in at the last minute, Mr Duckett has plans for online auctions offering bidders a traditional experience from the comfort of their own home.
“It’s virtually a live sale,” he said. “It’s not like eBay. There will be a camera filming the auction and customers can submit their bids from their keyboards while the auction takes place.
“There will be conventional viewings beforehand, when prospective purchasers can inspect the paintings, but there won’t be a printed catalogue because all items can be viewed online. We’re not trying to take on the contemporary art market, just attract collectors and people who want to acquire works of art at an affordable price, anywhere between £50 and £10,000.”
Mr Duckett has worked at 25 Blythe Road – both the name and the address of his existing traditional auction business – for six years after a brief stint at Sotheby’s.
As the head of operations he runs sales for three auction houses: maritime specialist Charles Miller, silver specialist Matthew Barton and arms and militaria specialist Thomas Del Mar, the latter being the proprietor of 25 Blythe Road and of the new web-based business.
Mr Duckett, 26, saw the success of adding online bidding to some of those previous sales, and so the 26-year-old pitched the idea of a web only auction to his boss.
Mr Del Mar, 39, who set up 25 Blythe Road in 2007, said: “George came to me saying he thought he could do it by himself. In terms of administration it really streamlines the process. The item will come in and George can take a picture for the condition report immediately, email back the client and upload it for the online catalogue.
“Traditionally, you go through about 16 to 20 pieces of paper for each item, but using this system it’s only about one or two. He just sorts it all out, one man and his iPad.
“I thought it was a very good idea because the paintings side is something that has not been explored fully and when you take into account the exponential increase of online bidding at the existing sales, it’s certainly something I thought we should develop.”
The first auction will take place on Monday, December 17, with nearly all of the 100 lots arriving in a two-month period. Sellers are asked to email a picture of the painting to Mr Duckett for a free evaluation before it gets shipped to Blythe Road. As well as offering customers the chance to buy an affordable piece of art for their home, Mr Duckett hopes the web-based sales will provide a more accessible entry-point to the world of auction houses for the general public.
The Pimlico resident, said: “It can be intimidating enough for people to go to their first auction but we want people to come here. We’re very keen to have people feel comfortable. Although the auction is web-only, we would encourage people to visit Blythe Road for viewings.
“We know the image of the auction house can be seen as slightly snooty, but that’s not what we’re about at all. We hope that this might encourage people to attend their first live auction.”
The web auctions will be held twice a year. Information from www.25blytheroad.com