New York and Berlin Art Auction Sites Announce Merger and Lay-Offs

Two key players in the burgeoning world of online art auctioning, New York-based Paddle8 and Berlin-based Auctionata, announced a merger earlier this month that could effectively boost both platforms’ reach and influence in the digital art world.

At least 71% of all art collectors have purchased art online, and a recent survey of buyers ranked Paddle8 fifth of all online art retailers and Auctionata ninth. Together, their rankings will surely only improve, though they’re unlikely to surpass behemoth auction house Christie’s LIVE program in the number-one spot.

Unlike Christie’s or Sotheby’s, Paddle8 and Auctionata strive to service the “middle market” of art sales, usually items not valued more than $500,000, but too expensive for online bidding sites like eBay. Last year, the two separate sites reported a combined $140 million in sales and play host to more than 800,000 users.

Paddle8’s American base and Auctionata’s European one will each help the other move in to trans-Atlantic markets. As the larger of the two sites currently, Auctionata’s chief executive Alexander Zacke will take over as head of the new, yet-to-be-named combined site.

Even so, the two sites stress equality.

“We’re quite focused on doing this together,” Aditya Julka, one of Paddle8’s founders, told the New York Times. “For every practical purpose, it’s a merger.”

The transition, however, may not be as seamless as it appears. According to ARTnews, in the weeks since the announcement, more than a dozen employees at New York’s Paddle8 headquarters have resigned or been laid off, including eight of the 16 founders.

Current Paddle8 CEO Osman Khan wrote in a statement: “A merger is an inevitable inflection point, and in the past month Paddle8 has seen the departure of some of our colleagues in the lead up to and following our merger with Auctionata. Some left to pursue other passions and opportunities, and others as a result of corporate restructuring. In all cases, we are grateful for their contributions to Paddle8.”

Several high-profile names in the art auctioning world will now be looking for new work as Paddle8 channels more of its work to Auctionata’s Berlin headquarters. Paddle8’s team, on the other hand, will be taking over Auctionata’s Chelsea studio space to conduct livestreaming digital art auctions.