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

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