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Online Auction House Paddle8 Wants To Be The "Netflix For Collecting"

Live streaming, celebrity auctions, and Wu-Tang: Here's how Paddle8 wants to attract young collectors.

Collecting art might be mostly for the wealthy and affluent, but that doesn't mean that the rest of us aren't interested the precious and beautiful objects being passed with white gloves through the back rooms of houses like Christie's or Sotheby's.

How do you make art collecting more accessible—and more mobile friendly? The online auction house Paddle8 thinks it has an answer, as co-founder Alexander Gilkes explained at the 2016 Fast Company's Innovation Festival this week. Paddle8 has plans to expand its work with live streaming to make auctions more accessible and exciting. Meanwhile, it's expanding the idea of what "collectible" means, auctioning off everything from Frank Sinatra's ID card to a crustacean in a glass case.

[Photo: courtesy the author]

After merging with the German online auction house Auctionata earlier this year, the combined company is hoping to use Auctionata's technical prowess and live streaming capabilities to expand its platform from one that just sells art to one that uses video to elevate the story of each piece. It's a strategy that Gilkes called "a Netflix for collecting." The idea? To make objects that potential buyers can't touch or even see in person much more attractive—and giving everyone a way to engage with the objects, even if they don't have $50,000 in loose change.

"We are in an age where people don't read long academic essays," says Osman Khan, another Paddle8 co-founder. "Content is constantly getting recycled. The game from our perspective? You have to make really exciting content."

At the Innovation Festival, Gilkes showed a proof-of-concept video of Louis Albert de Broglie, the owner of the famous Parisian taxidermy shop Deyrolle. The video gave a sense of de Broglie's quirky personality, taking viewers inside his studio in Paris where Gilkes interviewed him briefly about Damien Hirst's Smith & Wesson gun. Then, the bidding began.

The video felt nothing like a staged auction you might come across late at night on America's Auction Network, with superimposed graphics and a fast-speaking auctioneer. Instead, it was more like a documentary about a particular era in the art world.

[Photo: From the book; Robin Williams: A Singular Portrait, 1986-2002 (copyright Arthur Grace)/courtesy Paddle8]

The company is also focusing on new auction lots from celebrities and influencers. One of the most recent Paddle8 auctions sold bikes from the collection of Robin Williams to benefit two charities. It was extremely successful, with all 87 bikes listed being sold. Having Williams's personality associated with the auction expanded interest from just bike enthusiasts to millions who are fans of the deceased actor, Khan says. Other auctions have been curated by Grace Coddington, Elton John, Tory Burch, Tracey Emin, and Ellen Degeneres.

While contemporary art is the company's main area of expertise, Paddle8 also sells curiosities and memorabilia, like Curt Kobain's credit card (which sold for €28,000), skate decks decorated with the work of artists like Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat, and the infamous Wu-Tang Clan album that America's most hated man, Martin Shkreli, reportedly bought for $2 million. Right now, you can buy a plush doll by the street artist Kaws, if you top the current bid of $1,100.

The combination of live streaming, celebrities, and off-beat items could be just the ticket to the millennials the company hopes to bring into the art collecting world.

[All Photos (unless otherwise noted): via Paddle8]

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