Ian and Joe Syer, MyArtBroker founders were recently interviewed by the Kensington & Chelsea Review, see the interview below.
KCR: How did MyArtBroker come about?
Ian: I’d been an art consultant in an art gallery for some time and through my regular interactions with clients, the relationships I formed with them as they built their collections, I’d begun to notice that there were limited options for selling art outside of the auction house. I was interested in this ‘secondary market’ (related read: what is the secondary market), its dynamics and how difficult it seems to be to access. That was when the idea began to germinate, was there a way we could help art buyers and collectors buy from the secondary market, without the risk of eBay and without the exclusivity and fees of an auction house?
Over the coming months we looked at gallery spaces, following the traditional route – until we hit upon the idea of an online platform which essentially connected buyers with sellers and vice versa. One night, over a couple of glasses of red with my brother Joe, we decided to go for it – and MyArtBroker was formed.
KCR: Is the service a competition for art brokers or do you see it as a collaborative platform?
Joe: We definitely see this as a collaborative platform, particularly when it comes to supporting brokers and dealers early on in their career for example, who may not have the black book of contacts that their more established peers have built up. The MyArtBroker platform allows individuals like you or I, to buy and sell art to other individuals, but it is also a great resource for dealers and brokers. If they’re looking for a particular piece for a client perhaps, it’s quite likely a MyArtBroker member may be selling that very piece of art.
KCR: At the moment it feels like its exclusively contemporary art, do you envision older works being available?
Joe: Indeed, we see trends in the secondary market and we respond to those trends. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of interest in Banksy (unsurprisingly, following Dismaland this year), Stik (whose print release late last year saw a huge surge in secondary market interest) and Lorenzo Quinn, a sculptor whose popularity never seems to wane. However, we’ve recently been talking to some clients who are looking to move on a Picasso collection for example, and as we grow we’ll certainly look to expand the portfolio.
Ian: The platform is curated, so for us that means constantly looking at the way the secondary market is moving, engaging with our networks, talking to our dealers, picking the brains of our contacts and importantly, listening to what our clients are telling us – if there is a demand for an artist in the secondary market, we’ll look to meet that demand through the platform.
KCR: Can the service work for upcoming and emerging artists?
Ian: With MyArtBroker we only deal in secondary market pieces – basically this means that the piece of art itself has already been owned at least once. The owner wants to sell for a number of reasons (in the industry, we quip that it’s often Debt, Divorce or Death that forces a sale – but serious collectors are just as likely to sell to free up wall space or funds for the next big purchase by the next big artist) and so the piece becomes available on the secondary market. For that piece to sell, there has to be an ongoing demand for the artist’s work. To achieve that, the artist usually has to be established, to have made a name and a reputation that compels people to seek out available artwork. It’s unlikely, therefore, that upcoming and emerging artists can make much of an impact on the secondary market.
Joe: Unlikely, but not impossible.
KCR: What are the benefits for a beginning art collector to use this service rather than the traditional auction houses?
Joe: One of the key parts of our service is the dedicated Broker who helps you find the art you’re looking for, negotiate the price and importantly, verify it’s authenticity. At an auction house you won’t get this dedicated service, an expert to guide you through the process. For example, if we have a first time buyer looking for a Warhol, we’ll connect that individual with one of our experts in the Pop Art market. They’ll seek out a piece, negotiate a deal, verify authenticity, condition check and oversee delivery. This kind of service puts our members and ease and when investing in art for the first time is an invaluable part of the experience.
Ian: Also, our fees. We take an introducer fee, the cost of our time to connect the buyers with the sellers. In much the same way that Uber take 10-20% on each cab ride, we take 12.5% from our members per deal concluded. Compare this to an auction house, whose fees can go up to 30% and you can see why we have so many of our members come back again and again.
KCR: How do you see the role of the internet impacting art purchasing in the next few years
Ian: It’s already essential to the industry. Just look at Sotheby’s partnering with eBay and the success of sites like Paddle8 – it’s opening up art like never before. You don’t need to be part of a privileged elite to be ‘in the know’ about art anymore – with online platforms like ours, you can tap into the industry at the touch of a button and like never before a Banksy is in reach. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be a place for a gallery – the experience of art is unparalleled and not easily replicated online, but art buyers are changing and platforms like ours cater for that.
Joe: Recent figures suggest that the global online art industry is worth $2.64 billion! That will grow over the next five years, as trust in the online marketplaces grow, as the major players refine their strategies and as social media plays a bigger role in cultivating art buyers and influencing purchase decisions we’re only going to see growth. I predict Instagram stars of the future will be art collectors!
Ian: It’s all to play for right now, this year saw a couple mergers and acquisitions in the space, the jostling for position will continue and that can only benefit the art collectors. We’re in a unique territory occupying both the online art buying space whilst simultaneously being part of that ‘sharing economy’ – the connection of users with providers. Like Air BnB and Uber, we don’t hold stock, we don’t own art, we match those that have with those that want.
KCR: What is the biggest sale you’ve made through the service?
Joe: This year, the largest single sale to take place between our members was a Banksy, Girl With Balloon (find a similar piece here) diptych, edition of 25, which sold well over six figures. Though, we’ve some long-term members who have used our platform for many years to build their collections, investing considerably more.
KCR: What are the most recognisable, interesting and high profile sales through the service?
Ian: We’ve recently taken on a very high profile film director as a platform member, at the moment they are purchasing works by Sir Peter Blake, with plans to expand their collection in the future.
KCR: What has been your own most memorable purchase?
Joe: Individually, we dabble a little in collecting art. Personally, I appreciate urban art and have built a modest private inventory over the years this includes rare works by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and of course Banksy.
KCR: If you had any advice for first time art buyers, what would it be?
Joe: Buy what you like, do your research, take advice, check the provenance.
Ian: Visit MyArtBroker!
* First published in the Kensington & Chelsea Review, December 2015