The online art market is growing as auction houses and dealers rush to establish a presence on the Web. How have their investments paid off so far—and what do they hope to achieve in the future?
Selling art on the Internet has been likened to trying to hit a moving target. No one knows quite where to aim, but everyone knows there is something out there. At a wild pace, auction houses and art dealers are coming up with ways to sell fine art online. Some have jumped onto the Internet with adolescent vigor, some have dipped in an uncertain toe, and still others are staying clear of the murky waters altogether. “Everyone seems to be watching everyone else,” says Nicholas Lowry, principal auctioneer at Swann Galleries in New York. “Everyone is being cagey. No one wants to make a mistake; no one wants to be first; no one wants to be left out.”High-end retailers have been lured online by the accessibility and efficiency of the medium, Internet investors and entrepreneurs have been drawn to the trade of fine art, antiques, and collectibles, and online auctions have become a consumer phenomenon. In April, following Sotheby’s announcement last January that it was investing $25 million to develop auctions on the Internet, the five-year-old Internet auction company eBay paid $260 million in company stock to acquire the 135-year-old San Francisco auction house Butterfield & Butterfield. “Things have moved really quickly in the past year,” says John Gallo, former president of Butterfield & Butterfield and now senior vice president of eBay’s Great Collections site. “Trying to take on the Internet alone is overwhelming.” In June, the five-year-old Internet retailer Amazon.com invested $45.4 million in Sotheby’s in return for a 10-year partnership with the 256-year-old auction house in developing the site sothebys.amazon.com.Such dramatic displays of courtship and the Web’s beckoning potential have pushed traditional members of the art trade to navigate through the comforts and discomforts of selling online, to formulate strategies for tapping into an unknown audience, and to develop start-up companies that fill the gap between a bricks- and-mortar (or nonvirtual) art market and the great frontier of online consumption. The new millennium will answer the elusive question: to what effect?Forrester Research, a technology research firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has predicted that online auction sales will grow from $1.4 billion in 1998 to $19 billion by 2003. Jupiter Communications, a New York–based e-commerce research firm, estimates that 29 million people in the United States made an online purchase, via auction or other method, in 1999. How much of this online consumer demand will be directed toward fine art? Neither firm has any idea. “There is no good way of gauging that market,” says Jupiter spokesperson Diane Schreiber. “There is no way of knowing the size.”While the potential of the online art market is impossible to predict, the size of the offline art market is not known. The art trade is a discreet, unregulated, and highly fragmented industry. Auction specialists and dealers who have been in the business for decades cannot pin down how many art dealers exist or the breadth of worldwide annual sales. While the ICC Business Audit Ratio Report keeps track of dealer sales in the United Kingdom, there is no such accounting for dealer sales in the United States. There are specialized publications, such as the Art Price Index and Leonard’s Annual Price Index of Art Auctions,that record prices for artists at auction but do not report global auction totals. The Art Sales Index does analyze data provided by auction houses worldwide—in the 1998–99 season it reported that fine-art sales brought in $2.53 billion—but the publication excludes sales of photographs, along with prints priced under $3,000, works that are currently selling well on the Internet. And while Christie’s and Sotheby’s reported 1998 worldwide annual sales of $1.965 billion and $1.939 billion, respectively, these figures include items—such as jewelry, vintage cars, and wine—outside the realm of fine art.For the most part, auction houses—which have seen an increasing number of collectors bid by telephone and absentee form in recent years—have accepted, if not embraced, the idea of selling fine art online as a vital part of their future businesses. Says David Redden, executive vice-president and a leader in Sotheby’s Internet venture, “The potential of the Internet is something you know intuitively if you know the art market as I and my colleagues who have been here do. You just know how huge it is.” Initially, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and eBay planned to aim conservatively with their fine-art, antiques, and collectible online auctions by offering only works estimated to bring up to $10,000, but recently they have begun to see the larger possibilities. “Originally, the plan was to offer works in the $300-to-$10,000 range, but now there seems to be reason to offer works that are much more expensive,” says Redden. He hedges, “So far there is not enough evidence that the Internet is right for selling extremely valuable works. That is still a hard sell.”Aside from affecting the manner in which art is traded, the Internet has also tested the faith of the market’s talent pool by prompting traditional auction specialists and art dealers to defect to online companies or launch Internet start-ups. Among those who have made the leap are: Patrick Meade, formerly a senior vice-president at Christie’s New York, who joined Butterfield & Butterfield as its senior vice- president of marketing and business development for eBay’s Great Collections site and is now president and chief executive officer of Butterfield & Butterfield; Sandy Mallet, formerly of Sotheby’s London, who is director of auctions at London’s online auction service icollector; Usha Subramaniam, a former 20th- century decorative-arts specialist at Christie’s and Phillips, who has founded Icon 20, an e-commerce and resource site dedicated to her field; George Noceti, former senior vice-president of Internet services at Butterfield & Butterfield, who has launched Gavelnet.com, an online auction house specializing in collectibles as well as fine and decorative arts; Michael Thomson-Glover, former chairman of Sotheby’s Sussex, who is now head of Gavelnet.com’s European operations; Leslie Hindman, former founder and president of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago (which was acquired by Sotheby’s in 1997), who has founded eppraisals.com, an online research and valuation service of fine art, antiques, and collectibles; Morgan Spangle, a former contemporary art specialist at Christie’s and director of New York’s Leo Castelli Gallery, who has cofounded the virtual gallery eArtGroup.com; and Terri Kahan, a former contemporary-art dealer with the Gagosian Gallery in New York, who has founded Onview.com, an art portal and e-commerce site.Despite spreading enthusiasm, many dealers are still unsure about how they will use the Internet to enhance their business. “I think it’s important not to oversimplify the Internet as selling art online,” says Paul Gray of the Richard Gray Gallery, which specializes in modern and contemporary art in both Chicago and New York. “It’s a tool like anything else. It’s not a panacea.” As a tool, the Internet provides a gallery with as many options as a Swiss Army knife. It can serve as an advertisement, an index, an archive, a catalogue, a window, a rack, a magnet, and as an assistant who keeps the gallery open 24 hours a day, takes messages, and never intimidates visitors. “It’s another venue for activity that we plan to utilize,” says Jeffrey Bergen, director of New York’s ACA Galleries, which specializes in contemporary art along with 19th- and 20th-century paintings and sculpture. “I believe it is a wonderful medium for raising consciousness and providing access.”Still, there are others who consider the Internet’s effect on the fine
-art market to be inconsequential. “Everyone is scurrying around for smaller and larger pieces of this brass ring,” notes Robert Fishko, director of New York’s Forum Gallery, which specializes in modern and contemporary figurative art. “I don’t get it, and I don’t see that the Internet will be something that will have a great effect on the market for fine art. I don’t feel that unique works can be sold this way. The fine-art business is in the business of selling the communication between the viewer and the unique object. The further one gets from that communicative aspect, the less likely one is to make a sale.”Nonetheless, there are already examples of extraordinary transactions that might not have occurred had it not been for the Internet. Last January, for instance, Martha Fleischman, president of New York’s Kennedy Galleries, which specializes in American paintings, sculpture, and prints, was contacted by a maintenance worker in the Midwest who had discovered, while playing Masterpiece, that a card in the board game resembled a painting hanging on his living-room wall. He found Fleischman through the gallery’s Web site. The painting turned out to be an original by 19th-century American artist Martin Johnson Heade. “This was another example of someone outside the art world who was turning to the Internet looking for guidance,” says Fleischman, who agreed to handle the painting and ended up selling it to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston for $1.25 million. “Internet sales are not an everyday occurrence, but I have been contacted by several well-educated, serious collectors.” Fleischman says she has also handled the six- figure sales of two 20th-century paintings that came to her via the Internet, and through the 15th of this month she is exhibiting John Frederick Peto’s In the Library(1894–1900), a newly discovered still life that came to the gallery by way of the Internet, and is expected to fetch seven figures. Baltimore dealer Thomas Segal, a specialist in contemporary and modern art, says the Internet has provided at least 20 new clients for his gallery and “many, many sales,” including that of an Impressionist painting that was posted on his gallery site with the Internet art portal artnet.com and subsequently sold to a European collector for $3 million. “Being on the Internet attracts volumes of people, and you can get lucky,” says Segal. “If you’re not there, you are passing up an opportunity.”In the next few years, as auction houses conduct more online sales and dealers interact more frequently with Internet clients, the art market will bear the weight of theory becoming practice, practice producing results, and results indicating success or failure. Whether the Internet will turn out to warrant the art market’s heady reaction to the online marketplace that swelled so rapidly in early 1999 remains to be seen. Already one thing is clear: the art market has stumbled onto a whole new game, however willingly or unwillingly. “It’s not a negative; it’s not a loss,” says dealer Robert Conway, a former director of the David Tunick Gallery in New York and now vice president and chief curator of the San Francisco–based online gallery nextmonet.com. “It’s a matter of trading things. Giving up things and gaining others. It’s not the end of the art market. It’s the evolution of the art market.”The Sotheby’s EffectIn late 1998 and early 1999, Internet stocks surged in value. Among those to benefit from the Internet frenzy was Sotheby’s, whose stock achieved a 1998 high of $38 per share on December 24, 1998, on the expectation that the firm would introduce online auctions in coming months. On January 19, 1999, when Sotheby’s officially announced that it was investing $25 million to develop Internet auctions on its sothebys.com Web site, its stock leapt to $41 per share. If art dealers and auction houses had previously paid little attention or given little credence to Internet companies such as eBay—the flea-market style, person-to-person auction site whose stock rose from $18 a share to $296 3/8 a share between September and December 1998—Sotheby’s bold move made the trade take notice. In the five months that followed Sotheby’s announcement, eBay acquired Butterfield & Butterfield and Amazon.com formed its ten-year partnership with Sotheby’s. Meanwhile, Christie’s, the 234-year-old auction house that was made private in May 1998 by French businessman Franí§ois Pinault, remained noticeably quiet. As a private firm, it did not face the same pressures to reveal its Internet plans as did those auction companies with shareholders to appease. Christie’s released a nondescript statement last February announcing that it, too, planned to launch an Internet component. Nine months later, the two major auction houses would part ways in their Internet strategies with Christie’s deciding to scrap its plans to offer continuous online auctions.Still other companies followed with announcements of their own. The New York–based online art portal artnet.com quickly launched its own auctions on the Internet in March, and in May it floated an initial public offering of 1 million shares on Germany’s Neuer Markt. (When it first went public, artnet.com’s shares were offered at $49 per share. At press time the price of its shares had dropped to about $12 per share.) Wolf’s, the 26-year-old auction house in Cleveland, Ohio, has abandoned the traditional auction format altogether and turned to the Internet. “When Sotheby’s made the announcement that it was investing $25 million in Internet sales, it looked like the entire industry would be doing this in no time,” says the firm’s owner, Michael Wolf. “We felt we had to hurry up and get online in order to preserve our small piece of the pie.” By mid-April, ewolfs.com was launched, and among the nearly 1,200 lots sold in its first online auction, which brought in a total of $1.5 million, was an oil painting by American artist James E. Butters-worth that went for $187,000, more than double its estimate. According to Wolf, the firm has spent “into the seven figures” to move its business online. “We jumped in kicking and screaming. Some of our best clients were threatening never to do business with us again. But whatever we lost, we’ve made up for,” says Wolf, who reports that being online has brought the firm a 40 percent increase in new clients with each Internet auction. “Anyone who thinks that this is easy, wait until they try it. The learning curve is steep. It takes superhuman effort to get things right. I’m sure that at the top of the mountain there’s a nice view, but I’m just not sure we’re there yet.”Despite the auction houses’ push to move online by fall 1999 many postponed launch dates. Meanwhile start-up Internet art companies began popping up daily. During the first half of the year, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and eBay had all pledged to bring their online auctions, including sothebys.amazon.com, to fruition no later than September 1999. But by October, none had launched. The reason for the delays? “We want to get it right,” said one company spokesperson after the other.Sotheby’s initiative did more than spur a series of major developments on the Internet front. In a move that altered the traditional relationship between art dealers and auction houses, the firm sent out a slew of invitations to a select group of dealers whom it wished to involve in its new venture. “Sotheby’s paid the greatest compliment to dealers by saying that they couldn’t do this without them,” says Gerald Stiebel, co- owner of New York’s Rosenberg & Stiebel gallery, which deals in Old Master paintings and drawings and European works of art. “Before, their attitude had been ‘We’re everything to everybody.’”Among benefits such as free links to de
aler Web sites, the auction house offered a discount on catalogue subscriptions to those dealers who signed up to become Sotheby’s Internet Associates. The contract stipulated that dealers could offer their inventory for auction on sothebys.com at no charge if they agreed not to sell property worth
ore than $300 with any other Internet auction site. (The contract does not prohibit associates from selling works on nonauction sites.) “I did not sign up because I do not believe in giving an exclusive on me, although the discount on their catalogues was tempting,” says Stiebel, who estimates his gallery spends $5,000 on catalogues each year. “A lot of dealers were startled and taken aback by Sotheby’s announcement,” says eArtGroup.com’s Spangle. “But it has turned out to be of benefit to us. Even forward-looking people tend to procrastinate when it comes to change. It forced dealers to think about what they wanted.”Halley K. Harrisburg, a director at New York’s Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, which specializes in 20th- century American art, was among the first—along with dealers William Acquavella, Mary-Anne Martin, and Dickinson Roundell in New York; Thomas Segal in Baltimore; and Simon C. Dickinson Ltd. and Marlborough Fine Art in London—to sign up with sothebys.com. “I felt really comfortable with the association, and it was the first place to go,” says Harrisburg. “I was afraid that if we weren’t there, people would go to our competition. I wanted us to have a fair shake, and at the time Christie’s had not announced a similar opportunity.”Sotheby’s online strategy has been criticized by some in the trade for tying up dealers in exclusive contracts, employing aggressive marketing tactics to recruit new dealers and, in a departure from its traditional practice, giving those dealers sole responsibility for guaranteeing the authenticity of the object as well as the accuracy of the catalogue description. “I think that Sotheby’s wanted to have something proprietary,” says Fishko, who refused to sign with sothebys.com even after “a very, very high-ranking official” visited the gallery to extend the invitation. “They had to have something they could sell,” he says, “and they have packaged and sold their exclusive relationships with dealers.” According to Redden, the dealer network is necessary because “we couldn’t handle the amount of property we want to sell on the site. We are not equipped to handle that much property. We will catalogue the consignments we receive, but we are limited to 500 specialists. Sotheby’s dealer network brings 10,000 or 15,000 experts to the site.” Says Mike May, visual commerce analyst at Jupiter Communications, “Moving quickly and signing up as many dealers as it did was the smartest move Sotheby’s made. It preempted Christie’s from parroting the same strategy. It’s the classic example of a first-mover attaining sustainable competitive advantages.”Dealer Mary-Anne Martin, whose New York gallery specializes in modern and contemporary Mexican and Latin American Art, says she signed up with sothebys.com for the free link to her gallery Web site (www.mamfa.com), even though she tends to stay away from selling works at traditional auctions “because you don’t get to meet the person who buys your property. With online auctions,” she says, “you at least get to know the person who buys the work.” Sotheby’s associates will ship works directly to buyers, thereby obtaining client information for their own records. The names of underbidders will be released by the auction house with their permission. At press time more than 4,000 dealers had signed up with sothebys.com and sothebys.amazon.com, and last September the firm hired Chris Jussel, former host of PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow,” as senior vice president of its associate program, in charge of recruiting additional dealers into its network. “I think the lines are blurring between auction houses and certain dealers,” says Ann Freedman, director of New York’s Knoedler & Company, which specializes in postwar and contemporary art, who declined to sign up. “I feel strongly about keeping what we do separate from the other choices out there. I believe in a more up-close-and-personal approach. Collectors are not names and numbers, and art is not chips or stocks or bonds.”Strategies for SellingAlthough online auctions have attracted the most attention in the media and on the Internet, there is more than one way to sell art online. Internet auctions are time-based silent sales, in which Internet users submit bids for items that are posted online for a limited time period. The highest bid at the end of the auction wins the lot. For all the hype and multimillion-dollar announcements, browsing through an Internet auction site, even one as popular as eBay, can feel as if you’ve stumbled into a ghost town where rows upon rows of lots are lined up without a single bid. “We find that the most active bidding occurs on the last day,” says Uta Scharf, director of auction sales at artnet.com. “People wait until the last minute to buy.” Within the silent-auction format, sellers are both individuals and businesses.Ebay built its reputation as a person-to-person site that functions much like a classified-ad section in a news-paper: a seller posts an item for sale to attract the highest bidder. Another example of a person-to- person auction site is auctionuniverse.com, owned by Classified Ventures, a consortium of eight leading media companies, including the New York Times Company, the Times Mirror Company, Gannett Company, Knight Ridder, and the Washington Post Company. Last March, the site auctioned six photographs offered by New York’s Edward Carter Gallery for a total of $41,740, including $24,500 for a 1976 print of Ansel Adams’s Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.Online portals also specialize in person-to-person auctions, offering fine-arts sections among other categories. Yahoo (www.auctions.yahoo.com) has presented free auctions to buyers and sellers since September 1998. Last September, Microsoft launched person-to-person auctions (www.auctions.msn.com) in association with the FairMarket Auction Network, an alliance of sites, including Excite@Home and Lycos that share auction listings. Meanwhile, in August 1998, eBay agreed to pay America Online $12 million to have the portal promote eBay’s auctions through 2001. Last March eBay extended its relationship with AOL and agreed to pay the company $75 million over the next three years to promote eBay’s auctions on AOL’s subsidiary sites, which include Netscape and Compuserve.Analysts, however, believe that business-to-consumer auctions, in which property is offered by companies or qualified professionals, will soon outpace person-to-person auctions because they offer consumers a reduced risk of fraud. Forrester Research has predicted that in the next three years business-to- consumer auctions will represent 66 percent of a $19 billion online auction industry.In a departure from its person-to-person auction model, eBay Great Collections offers fine art, antiques, and collectibles in a business-to-consumer site, where a network of dealers and auction houses provides and guarantees the works offered. Auctions on eBay’s person-to-person site have included an unauthenticated Monet, which failed to sell against the reserve despite a bid of $1.77 million, but did garner a visit from a Christie’s representative (the firm did not pursue consignment) and front-page coverage in USA Today last September. Two friends in Lincoln, Nebraska, had paid $225 for the painting at a local antiques shop believing it was a copy. Through a law firm in Seattle, Washington, they learned that an image of the painting was listed in the Monet catalogue raisonné and that the work in their possession might be the original. Rather than incur the expense of authenticating the work, the owners listed it on eBay as an “unauthenticated Monet,” a practice that will not be permitted on the Great Collections site. “Individuals who previously sold on eBay’s person-to-person site will have to consign works to
an auction house or dealer selling on the Great Collections site, or they can apply to become dealers on the site,” says Tom Adams, director of business development for eBay’s Great Collections. “There will be no limit in terms of value, but we are looking for a certain quality and uniqueness of item.”Separate from Internet auctions is live Internet bidding, which allows online participants to compete with bidders on the auction floor at traditional bricks-and-mortar sales. This is comparable to bidding by telephone, but in this case the bid is submitted with the click of a mouse. Last April, members of International Auctioneers—a consortium of auction houses founded in 1993 that includes Butterfield & Butterfield in San Francisco, the Dorotheum in Vienna, Galerie Kí¶ller in Zurich, í‰tude Tajan in Paris, Lawsons in Sydney, and Swann Galleries in New York—participated in an auction relay around the world that offered live Internet bidding through LiveBid.com, a Seattle-based provider of live-event auctions on the Internet now owned by Amazon.com. Specific figures detailing how many Internet bidders registered for the sale or how many of the 156 sold lots went to online buyers were not released. Auctioneer Nicholas Lowry at Swann Galleries was not overly impressed by the online technology—there was a technological glitch that interrupted Internet bidding for a period of time—or the response the sale received. Only two Internet bidders surfaced during Swann’s portion of the auction, and neither bid was high enough to take home the lot. “My instinct is to be very wary and very ready,” says Lowry of the Internet’s impact.William Doyle Galleries in New York offered live Internet bidding at an auction of books, manuscripts, and prints last May, and in October, the I. M. Chait Gallery in Beverly Hills teamed up with LiveBid.com to broadcast an Asian art–and–antiques sale over the Internet. Online bidding from 120 registered Internet users outweighed phone bidding by 23 percent, according to the gallery’s Dawn Chaban. While a netsuke of two puppies by Masatami sold to an Internet bidder for $1,100, Chaban would not reveal the total number of Internet buyers at the sale.Meanwhile, Butterfield & Butterfield announced last fall that it would incorporate live Internet bidding into all of its fine-art sales. Still, some major auction houses and online firms are not yet convinced that the live-bidding technology is up to par. “We are not interested in offering live bidding, not yet,” says icollector’s Sandy Mallet. “The technology is not up to our standards. Right now, there’s a six-second delay that does not make for a professional auction. It’s simply unacceptable at this point.” Instead, icollector is working with auction houses such as Guernsey’s in New York, the Dorotheum in Vienna, and Phillips in London to offer a presale bidding service where Internet users can submit order bids via e-mail prior to the sale. “We’re interested in developing ways to enhance traditional auction sales,” says Mallet. “We’re not interested in pressuring auction houses to take objects away from their traditional sales but rather interested in developing new ways of getting more bids into their salerooms.”Aside from the public arena of Internet auctions, there is the more private, less dynamic method of selling fine art online, in which a dealer posts some of his or her works—sometimes accompanied by a price—on a gallery Web site; through an online art gallery such as nextmonet.com; or on the gallery section of an art site such as artnet.com, icollector, or the Art Dealers Association of America’s Fine Arts Market Online (www.artdealers.org/market). An interested party can contact the gallery directly and arrange to see the work in person or can choose to purchase the item sight unseen. Last May, Martin downloaded onto her site a catalogue of works by Alfredo Castaí±eda prior to the artist’s exhibition at the gallery. By the time the show opened, more than 6 of the 30 works had sold via the Internet, all in the $40,000 range. “The Internet keeps us in contact in a way we weren’t able to be before,” says Martin.New York dealer Joan Whalen, who specializes in American paintings and contemporary works, says that since she started her gallery site with artnet.com three years ago, she has sold at least a dozen works, including a 19th-century painting that went for $125,000 to a San Francisco collector. “The Internet has opened a window to the art market that was not there before,” says Whalen, who says that she has added “hundreds” of Internet contacts to her database. “These people are part of our stable now. They’re calling me, I’m calling them—I would never have met them any other way.”Auction ActionSotheby’s, Christie’s, and eBay have each developed vastly different approaches to auctioning valuable art, antiques, and collectibles on the Internet. It is fair to say that Sotheby’s leaders are among the more ardent of online enthusiasts. “We want to be an extremely highly trafficked site offering extraordinary opportunities,” says the firm’s Redden. “One huge engine of collective intelligence, brilliance, and expertise—an irresistible magnet for the sophisticated collector as well as the neophyte.” Says Diana D. Brooks, the auction house’s president and chief executive officer, “If we get this right and develop it right, our online business will result in a livelier overall business. Our view is that by going online we can get a larger slice of the art market by bringing live clients to our online sales and online clients to our live sales.” At press time, the firm was anticipating that 1999 Internet-related expenses would total $40 million and was still searching to replace Susan L. Solomon, who lasted only six months as worldwide head of Sotheby’s Internet venture.In its efforts to expand its reach, the firm will use its dealer network to make tens of thousands of valuable objects available on the Internet on any given day. This will be done in two ways: in continuous silent auctions with lots posted for a limited number of days, and in specialized Internet sales such as that of the Barry Halper collection of baseball memorabilia that was set to take place on sothebys.amazon.com last September but was delayed until the site was officially launched on November 19. According to Brooks, the firm’s Internet plans were postponed because of the “incredibly complicated” technology involved in developing an e-commerce site and the fact that the venture turns out to be a “much more massive undertaking than we originally thought.” While online auctions had not launched on sothebys.com by press time, the firm planned to offer property on the site before 2000.In the future, most large collections consigned to the firm will be auctioned in both a traditional sale and online. Highly valuable objects will still be auctioned in the company’s saleroom, but more affordable pieces will be offered to a more “wide-collecting Internet audience,” says Redden, on either sothebys.com or sothebys.amazon.com, depending on the character and price of the item. Dealers who are Sotheby’s Internet Associates will not pay a seller’s fee for either site, but independent consignors will have to pay a 12 percent commission and buyers will be charged a 10 percent premium. While there have been rumors that the firm plans to move its arcade sales—works estimated in the $500 to $10,000 range—entirely online, Redden says, “Much of the arcade property will be sold online, but there will still be some traditional arcade sales, which have a very loyal clientele. We want to see that number expand geometrically.”Christie’s, by comparison, has so far shown a slower commitment to the Internet. In the week prior to s
othebys.amazon.com going live last November, the firm withdrew its plans to offer continuous online auctions on its www.christies.com site.Last February, Christie’s had announced that it would develop an online auction site by September and in May it appointed A