The Art of the Deal­ing

With ma­jor new fund­ing and pow­er­ful art world back­ers, can Pad­dle8 be­come the auc­tion house of tomorrow?

Forbes - - Forbes Life - By natalie robehmed

In a cav­ernous apart­ment on Man­hat­tan’s Up­per West Side, African sculp­tures com­pete for space with $600 Marvel Comics-in­spired sneak­ers and a Steve Jobs ac­tion fgure, still in the box. Pho­to­graphs by Cindy Sher­man line the walls, while in a back room an of-white Robert Ry­man paint­ing hangs be­low four other prized can­vases. Th­ese are but a sam­ple of the works owned by col­lec­tor Jean Pigozzi, the en­tre­pre­neur and phi­lan­thropist, who has amassed one of the world’s most eclec­tic art col­lec­tions, in­clud­ing the largest pri­vate hold­ing of African con­tem­po­rary art.

In De­cem­ber a small se­lec­tion of the works in Pigozzi’s New York home will be sold through the on­line art auc­tion house Pad­dle8. Founded in 2011, the com­pany has quickly emerged as the In­ter­net’s premier art dealer, re­cently rais­ing a $34 mil­lion Se­ries C from in­vestors who in­cluded the pow­er­ful New York gal­lerist—and new Pad­dle8 board mem­ber—david Zwirner.

Zwirner joins artist Damien Hirst, White Cube Gallery’s Jay Jo­pling, ship­ping scion Stavros Niar­chos III and VC frms Founder Col­lec­tive and Mousse Part­ners, who have funded Pad­dle8 with $44 mil­lion to date. Once seen as a vir­tual Christie’s for con­tem­po­rary art, Pad­dle8 has now ex­panded to fea­ture de­sign items, movie mem­o­ra­bilia and fash­ion ac­ces­sories, as well as spe­cial sales with no­table col­lec­tors such as Pigozzi.

“Our lofty vi­sion is that there should be three auc­tion houses in the world— Sotheby’s and Christie’s at the higher end, fo­cus­ing on the busi­ness of sell­ing work of $500,000 and up, and us op­er­at­ing on­line, con­sol­i­dat­ing this mid­dle mar­ket of $500,000 lots and be­low,” says co­founder Alexan­der Gilkes, a 36-year-old Eton-ed­u­cated art world author­ity who worked at LVMH be­fore be­com­ing chief auc­tion­eer at Phillips.

“I no­ticed auc­tion at­ten­dance was dwin­dling and that th­ese auc­tions occurred at times of day that didn’t best cap­ture in­ter­na­tional de­mand,” Gilkes says, lean­ing back in his board­room chair at Pad­dle8’s Cooper Square ofces. He had sensed the brick-and-mor­tar sys­tem was fail­ing a new class of young col­lec­tors; meet­ing even­tual co­founder Aditya Julka in 2010 val­i­dated his sus­pi­cion. “Aditya was look­ing for an en­try into the art mar­ket and didn’t know where to start,” Gilkes re­mem­bers.

Flush from sell­ing his biotech com­pany, Julka wanted to start a col­lec­tion. “I thought

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