Art auction meltdown sees buyers left hanging
The highly anticipated sale of one of Australia’s most famous contemporary paintings has been postponed after the server hosting an international online auction crashed.
Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s Earth’s Creation I was due to be sold for at least $2 million last night, but a rush of more than 10,000 buyers logging on to a new Australian art auction platform is believed to have overloaded the system.
The auction was hosted by Fine Art Bourse, an online start-up created by former Sotheby’s chairman Tim Goodman, and CooeeArt, Australia’s oldest Aboriginal fine art business. Dozens of people sat in central Sydney’s Chifley Tower holding numbered paddles, while thousands more prepared to place bids on the 84 lots from more than 10 other countries.
“We’ve confirmed from IT that the surge of interest from international bidders at 6pm overloaded and crashed the remote server,” a spokeswoman for the event, Rae Begley, said afterwards. Mr Goodman said he would be consulting with developers to increase server capacity and “repair some bugs” that resulted from the overload.
Adrian Newstead, founder of CooeeArt, said he was bitterly disappointed. “I was confident that we would have an 80 to 90 per cent sale rate,” he said. “We had buyers lined up for almost everything.”
Mr Goodman’s start-up charges a buyer’s premium of 5 per cent, well below the roughly 25 per cent charged by Christie’s and Sotheby’s. A server based in Hong Kong means buyers pay no GST.
“We are breaking down the barriers to entry to the art market,” Mr Goodman said.
“We will be the first, but many will follow. The times are changing fast.”
Mr Newstead said: “This may be the last time a painting of this calibre will appear at auction for a very long time, if ever.”
A new date for the auction is expected to be announced today.
Tim Goodman with Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s Earth’s Creation I, which had been expected to sell for at least $2 million, at Chifley Tower in Sydney yesterday