One-year-old e-commerce startup Paddle8 has teamed up with the Armory Show as the fair’s first online partner. The online component, which opened last week and remains live through Mar. 18, a week after the Armory closes, gives Paddle8 members early access to participating galleries’ stock.
About 80 galleries (a third of those accepted into this year’s fair), including Marianne Boesky, Zach Feuer and Sean Kelly, have signed on. This arrangement follows the site’s affiliation with smaller fairs NADA in Miami this past winter and artLA in mid-January.
Paddle8 was founded by Alexander Gilkes, a former LVMH executive and Phillips auctioneer, and Aditya Julka, a Harvard MBA with a biotech and engineering background.
Will 2012 be the year that collectors start buying pricey art online? Paddle8, the recent recipient of a $4 million investment led by Founder Collective and Mousse Partners, is betting that new collectors will use the site to learn about the contemporary art scene and, of course, buy art. Paddle8 takes a 4% commission on any artwork sold directly through the site.
Paddle8’s initial tactic was to hold monthly online exhibitions organized by guest curators like performance artist Marina Abramovic and actor Robin Williams and his son Zak. Recently, however, Paddle8’s strategy has shifted toward partnerships with established art fairs. Members can browse through virtual booths, zoom in on individual artworks and check out prices. In fact, the Armory initiative seems most useful as a tool for people already in the know to start planning in advance which booths they want to make sure to see when they go to the fair, and which they plan to skip over.
When it comes to making a purchase, would-be collectors looking for instant gratification may run into a bit of a snag. There’s an “acquire” button on each artwork’s page, which allows users to make a (legally binding) offer. But the gallery has 72 hours to approve or reject it.
At an event last week held at Paddle8’s SoHo offices to announce the Armory partnership, Gilkes and Julka wouldn’t disclose how many collectors had joined so far, revealing only that they gain approximately 2,000 per month, and expect that figure to go up during and after the fair.