Phillips’ Paddles ON! – Was it a success?

Last week Phillips, in partnership with Tumblr, Paddle8, and curator Lindsay Howard launched what they described as

“a groundbreaking auction and exhibition that brings together artists who are using digital technologies to establish the next generation of contemporary art […] the first digital art auction at Phillips, in recognition of the increasing viability of this work in the contemporary marketplace.”

So was it a success?

In terms of brand, it certainly helps Phillips to promote itself as a digital auction house. Not only were they selling digital art by emerging digital artists, but they were doing so using a combination of online and traditional methods: online bids transferred to the very traditional surroundings of Phillips’ Park Lane auction rooms. The audience was less than traditional, however, not Park Lane auction regulars – described as “almost rowdy” by Hyperallergic.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Paddles ON! was its savvy use of existing technologies (Twitter), or partnerships with technology providers (Tumblr and Paddle8) which allowed Phillips to engage in what was undoubtedly a low cost experiment in digital auctioneering.  This is a lesson Sotheby’s should heed and which we’ve touched on in previous columns – there is no need to invest large amounts of cash in building digital platforms when partnerships with existing providers can facilitate low cost, rapid experimentation.

Was it a success financially? Phillips yesterday released their official results from Paddles ON! Actual sales on the night for the entire 20 lots were very close to estimates, although there were some significant over- and under-bid lots (see below).

All in all a good night for Phillips, and a confident and even fun entry into digital art sales online, broadening their audience to a new ‘tribe’ of art collectors. Based on the results from the night, expect more of the same from Phillips in the coming months.

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  • In conjunction with the auction, in an event presented by #ArtsTech, Paddles ON! Curator Lindsday Howard, chaired a discussion with artists Rafaël Rozendaal, Addie Wagenknecht, and Jamie Zigelbaum, live from Phillips’s galleries at 450 Park Avenue. View the video here.