The art paddle, the gavel: they are emblazoned in our minds as powerful talismans of art collecting in a world that is steeped in hallow rituals of auctions, Basels, and Biennales—as much social events as rigorous ceremonies for the passionate art collector. But breaking in is tough and collecting art requires continual courtship with the right galleries and advisors, a process as thrilling as it is frustrating for the uninitiated.
Enter, Paddle 8, the newest online art collecting platform, launching May 18th. It was first conceived by Alexander Gilkes, veteran of LVMH Group and Phillips de Pury Art Auctions, and Aditya Julka, whose dilemma as a Harvard MBA and serial entrepreneur unfamiliar with the art world's practices, highlighted their niche two years ago. While art selling websites have always existed, Paddle 8's roots are planted respectfully in the art world, giving it the potential to thrive within it and expand beyond it.
"Today if you walk into a gallery, you either have to inform yourself of the art or be informed by the dealer or art advisor," says Gilkes. "Paddle 8 is one destination where you can access all of that information yourself." Its collector program is selective, taking only applicants or nominees who demonstrate a genuine curiosity for art and collecting. "We've done everything with the utmost respect for galleries to ensure that we get their works into the hands of responsible collectors," he adds.
And the art demimonde is responding, with established galleries such as Marianne Boesky, Bortolami, Salon 94, and Metro Pictures already participating in its program. And industry heavy-hitters such as Marina Abramovic Anne Pasternak of Creative Time, Todd Bishop of MoMA and Jay Jopling of White Cube toasting to its success at the gallery week preview of its exhibition Saturation, curated by Paddle 8's director Hikari Yokoyama.
Next month's exhibition will be curated by Glenn O'Brien, (who, back in the day, ran with Andy Warhol's set) and each month going forward, collections will be overseen by a new icon from far-flung spheres such as architecture or film, helping to provide the constant novelty necessary to sustain interest online. But Paddle 8's academic focus on each work (a detailed dossier of original content written by its editorial team as well as videos and slide shows) provides context for the collector, and that empowerment of buyers has the potential to shift the future of collecting.
Not stopping there, Paddle 8 does away with the paddle and gavel entirely: members click the "acquire" button to place an offer to which Galleries have 72 hours to respond, and shipping and insurance are streamlined in four easy steps, making for a breezy experience that appeals to new and seasoned collectors alike.
Photos: Top: Billy Farrell; Jon Kessler: Andreas Laszlo Konrath