Christie’s has bolstered its online operations with the purchase of a platform that allows art buyers to manage collections on digital devices as it attempts to strengthen ties to wealthy investors.
The auction house’s purchase of online art collection management tool Collectrium is the first under its newly installed chief executive Patricia Barbizet, the former chairman who took over after the resignation of Steven Murphy in December.
Mr Murphy, who had spearheaded the Collectrium acquisition, resigned amid speculation of spiralling costs and a fallout with the auctioneer’s owner François Pinault.
The sale price was $16m, people familiar with the situation said. Christie’s, a private company, refused to confirm the figure.
Under Mr Murphy’s four year tenure, Christie’s invested heavily in consolidating its online position ahead of rivals such as Sotheby’s, spending as much as $50m on its online sales platforms to reach new customers in emerging markets.
Last summer, Sotheby’s announced a partnership with eBay to distribute its live auctions to eBay’s 150m buyers.
Christie’s acquisition of Collectrium, a subscription-based service that offers its 25,000 registered collectors a highly secure, cloud-based platform on which to manage art collections, is a move to strengthen online inventory management.
People familiar with the situation said Christie’s had struggled to build that part of its business, spending as much as $100m to develop efficient technology solutions.
Collectrium, founded in 2009 by Boris Pevzner, was created with the world’s wealthiest art investors in mind, offering “ironclad security and encryption”, data retrieval on scanned art works and valuations in multiple languages and currencies alongside the ability to manage their collections.
“Collectrium is the leading product of its kind,” said Ken Citron, Christie’s chief information officer.
Sale price of online art collection management tool Collectrium
“Today’s art ecosystem can be complex and Christie’s wants to support solutions that help collectors navigate this environment. We found no other technology solution that can offer the art collecting community this kind of instant utility and in such a secure, creative way”.
The company added that Collectrium would remain independently operated under its existing management and team, suggesting that Christie’s would be unable to access its customer data. The auctioneer said it saw the deal as a means of adding a new arm to its range of wider services such as education and real estate, and would remain available to collectors who were not its own clients.
“Christie’s is committed to enhancing the digital market for art, which will continue to be a significant growth area for the industry in the near term,” said Stephen Brooks, Christie’s global chief operating officer.
Last month, Christie’s full year results hit record levels, with sales of £5.1bn in 2014 propelled by a surge in first time buyers. Online sales grew 54 per cent to reach £21.4m.
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