Sunday, May 03, 2015

Auction News Spring 2015

1. NEW YORK Auctionata Lays Off Half of New York Staff
April 21, 2015 
Today, the online auction platform Auctionata laid off more than 30 employees in its 60-person New York office. Just last October, the firm held its first sale from the North American outpost;
the majority of the staff there joined last year.The company is changing its business strategy with a focus on maximizing cost-efficiency, according to a source in New York, who was let go and wished to remain anonymous. The cuts follow the elimination of 100 positions in Auctionata’s Berlin headquarters earlier this month, where 250 people had previously been employed.
Since it launched in 2012, Auctionata has raised over $95 million in private capital. Last month, the online auction platform secured $45 million C round funding. The firm reported sales in 2014 of $41 million, a 163 percent increase from 2013. Auctionata officials had not yet formulated an explanation of today’s events when reached for comment.

2. NEW YORK Auctionata Joseph Stasko, Auctionata’s chief operating officer, told ARTINFO on Wednesday morning that the firm’s dismissals mark the next phase in their business
development. “The effort to launch [a company] is very different than the effort that goes into sustaining growth….. You can’t necessarily know ahead of time the machinery that you want,” he said. Stasko declined to characterize the restructuring as a shift in Auctionata’s business strategy, however. “If you are a client looking at Auctionata, there is absolutely no difference,” he said,
referring to the ongoing fine art and collectible sales. Though staggered, the layoffs earlier this month
in Berlin and yesterday in New York represent the same effort to “centralize and streamline” the organization, Stasko said. All of the departments across the firm were affected by the cuts.
Future employment at Auctionata will “grow in tandem with the volume and sales,” Stasko added.
Auctionata followed up with this written statement: Establishing full-scale operations in New York in less than a year required a tremendous effort by a large cadre of employees, some of whose functions related solely to the launch. Going forward, Auctionata is taking full advantage of its unique technological business model to operate with great efficiency. Even so, as growth continues at a rapid pace both in New York and globally, fueled by the $45 million in new capital raised this month, Auctionata is planning gradual staff expansion over the balance of 2015 and into the future.

3. NEW YORK Auctionata Raises Another $45m In Demonstration of the Power of Live Auctions
March 30, 2015 by Marion Maneker
Auctionata Techcrunch says that Auctionata has gone back to the VCs for another $45m making the total capital raised close to $100m. Most of the appeal seems to be in lower-priced objects and the home shopping aspect of selling art through live auctions:
The tide is rising for live streaming services, and just as this is lifting apps, other kinds of streaming startups are seeing a boost as well. Today, Auctionata, a Berlin startup that broadcasts
online live auctions for fine art and collectibles, announced that it raised €42 million ($45 million) in a Series C round of funding from a group investors led by MCI Management and including
Hearst Ventures. Auctionata plans to use the money to expand its service to new geographies and new categories. […] New auction areas will include musical instruments, memorabilia (think ‘original Mickey Mouse ears’ and old baseball cards), architectural and garden pieces, diamonds, and real estate. It also plans to put investment into categories that it already offers like watches, classic cars,
wine, jewelry, design, contemporary art, fine art, antiques and Asian art; and also into the tech behind its live stream auction format.Auctionata Raises $45M To Build Out Its Live-Streamed Auction Business (TechCrunch)

3.  NEW YORK Christies -Since the question—What’s Christie’s Trying to Do to the Auction Schedule?—has been raised, it is worth adding the observation that this move is likely a harbinger of
much more aggressive competition between the auction houses. The field of play is shifting from commissions and guarantees to broader thinking about who buys art, when and how. With
Sotheby’s bringing in a new CEO who is backed by a bold activist with few ties to conducting business as usual and Phillips mounting a campaign to expand its market niche, almost everything
about the most valuable sector of the auction market will come under scrutiny.
Most of the talk in the press has been about online sales. But the real opportunities—as Christie’s is demonstrating—come in addressing the needs and behaviors of the Ultra High Net Worth
customers who are Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips’s focus. Christie’s seems to have moved their
Impressionist and Modern sale for simple commercial reasons. The Venice Biennale presented a distraction and the firm had already built their weak around its “hybrid sale.” The late timing of the calendar move suggests the specialists were in touch with their clients and Christie’s calculated that its results—the firm’s most important marketing tool—would be better with the Impressionist and Modern sales moved later in the week. There’s no reason to believe that Sotheby’s will be immediately hurt by the move. Their Imp-Mod Evening sale was slated to precede Christie’s. Now it comes 10 days earlier instead of one. How Sotheby’s will respond in the next sale cycle will probably be part of a much broader strategy change put in place by the new CEO. But the move does put Sotheby’s and Phillips on notice that Christie’s plans to move forward on its momentum and not wait to see what moves the other houses make.

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