Le Journal Interviews

Interview with Jean Baptiste Fabre

Interview with Jean Baptiste Fabre

Jean Baptiste Fabre is the founder of Auction AfterSale, a global database dedicated to simplifying and facilitating the purchase of authenticated auctioned art pieces left unsold. Acting as an intermediary between client and auction houses, it aims to provide buyers with untapped sources for successful acquisitions.

How did you get the idea for Auction AfterSale?

According to Hiscox, more than a third (37%) of fine art items fail to sell at auction across the world, leading to US$8 billion in lost revenue. Today, where everything is recycled and we are constantly looking for new markets, Auction Aftersale is changing people’s perceptions, by presenting this dormant market as a fantastic source of opportunity.

Auctioneers have to focus on a dynamic sales model, and other than live auctions, it is tricky for them to offer buyers an alternative method of purchase. They can’t themselves resell lots, for this would send a contradictory message that would ruin the chemistry created during the auction.

Many auction houses also do not have the logistical capabilities or the time required to deal with unsold lots. Often these sellers are left without a solution. Over the past three years, we have developed the perfect platform to take care of all those lots on their behalf.

What makes AfterSale different from other online auctions?

AuctionAfterSale.com is the first and only online platform that offers a second chance for unsold auction items. Our site is the only one to provide a daily overview of unsold items worldwide, which you can search and filter. It is a huge source of opportunity for buyers, dealers and collectors alike. Because we are not an auction house, the inventory isn’t ours and remains on the site for a short duration. With up to 10 days to make an offer, we operate on a first-come first-served basis. Our works are not exclusive and we are not competing with auction houses. Rather, we collect offers and submit them to sellers through auction houses. We give a second chance not only to the lots but also to all players involved: sellers, auction rooms and new buyers.

How do you think the internet has improved the world of art auctions?

In just two decades eBay has managed to introduce the concept of the auction to millions of consumers across the world by demystifying its mechanisms and making it fun. Our industry has to accept that a new generation of buyers is entering the auction market with its own rules and values.

Are there any disadvantages to online sales?

As far as we are concerned, buyers are very much engaged and focused on the items themselves and not the method of sale. Our platform is an efficient tool that includes thousands of catalogues, so buyers can quickly react when they spot something they like.

When we started, we believed our market would concentrate between $1.000 and $10.000. Yet to date, we’ve been treating lots up to $250.000! As we reach a new audience, we are noticing that purchasing habits are strongly influenced by regular ecommerce experiences. First time buyers usually inquire about shipping for instance, so we then walk them through the process before handing them over to the auctioneer.

Most of the time, people who send us offers are not advised before the auction – they have no idea what items will be on the market. Once you know your clients and their budgets, you can also help them search the tremendous amount of unsold lots left behind daily.

Today, Auction AfterSale is the only service to unlock these opportunities.

How do you think online art sales will develop with newer technologies?

The auctioning process is on its way to being dematerialized: no more paper catalogues, less viewings and less cocktails. Everything will move online.

An article in the Art newspaper I thought summed it up well: “The move to online-only auctions highlights auction house’s commitment to grow a digital presence in an increasingly competitive market.” “Companion sales” shows, the secondary saleroom, will then also become virtual.

Tailor-made sites will become more accessible, so people will be less accepting of unsuitable platforms. Why sell through a gallery that takes commission when you can find one online that doesn’t? And why buy at a live auction when you can purchase unsold lots from the comfort of your home?

We send out a daily report on the unsold lots worldwide. This is a very exciting aspect for potential buyers who are able to gain a new perspective on previously inaccessible sales.

How do you find a new selling point for the unsold work?

Most of the time the only reason why lots are left unsold is because sellers don’t want to accept the reality of the market; because they fix their reserve prices higher than the ones recommended by their auctioneers.

If their lot is rejected during the sale, Auction AfterSale provides relief for the seller, the new buyer and even for the auction house that doesn’t want the responsibility of an unsold lot. What we’ve seen is that offers within 48 hours of the sale have excellent chances to turn into successful deals. Beyond this time-frame, the outcomes are less predictable.

What other models of online art auction do you admire?

Auctionata, who used to offer live stream auctions. They published artwork descriptions in online catalogues, and one could bid and buy in a live auction without moving from their location. Auctionata were the first to handle art auctions in a light and fun way. They proved that to stage a successful auction there was no need for costly viewings, heavy catalogues or even the physical presence of an audience.