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The art world always pays attention when Loïc Gouzer opens his mouth. The ex-Christie’s specialist and so-called ‘rainmaker’ has long been seen as a dynamic force in an industry whose default is tradition. He’s been busy over lockdown designing and releasing an auction app called Fair Warning that promises, once again, to keep things fresh. 

Related articles: How Artists Are Using Instagram To Be Successful - Warhol Foundation & Christie's together for the artists

 

Fair Warning in the iPhone app store. Photo courtesy Fair Warning.

 

Whilst at Christie’s, Gouzer initiated sales which mixed different eras and was influential in helping the auction house achieve its record result for Leonardo’s Salvador Mundi. His departure in 2018 was a surprise, especially considering his clear talent for building strong consignments and driving their sales. 

Like everyone in the art business, Gouzer spent much of his time browsing the existing online platforms during the lockdown, ostensibly to buy work for his collection. Buying turned to strategising, however, as he became dissatisfied with his options and saw an opportunity to provide a novel approach to the online sphere that he believed was becoming saturated with content. He went against what is often seen as the appeal of online platforms: their vast tranche of works, effortlessly sorted through by medium, genre, etc – allowing for a browsing experience that until recently would have been frowned upon by the art establishment. 

Online platforms have arguably led the consumer revolution of putting the buyer firmly in control by allowing transparent and open access to a huge, almost unlimited inventory – not possible offline – and so have taken some of the dealer’s influence away, as they would aim to mould taste more precisely with their more selective presentations. 

Instead, Gouzer has decided to go with a digital sales approach that is minimalist and pared-down. This is certainly in opposition to the trend of building a site replete with content and choice. The premise is simple: there is one work available each week, with an auction every Sunday at 5pm. No absentee bids are allowed, and buyers bid by swiping right until they reach their limit. It exists almost as a foil to the increasingly curated and theatrical evening sales the contemporary art market routinely hosts, although guarantees are reportedly in place for the more expensive lots. 

Gouzer has commented on the app’s premise that “[Y]ou don’t have to sort through many many works in order to find a gem … we’re doing that job for people.”. The back-end of the app is built by Alexandra Bonetti of the fitness start-up The Talent Hack. It is important to mention that the app is private and invitation only. It is possible to register interest (as I did, without hearing back) but it is primarily for an evidently tight-knight collector community trusted by Gouzer and his network and so certainly not a market opening business. On the app store, the top review is by ‘Loic Guizer’ and simply reads ‘best app of all time’. 

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, oil stick on paper, 1982.


The app is arguably significant for two reasons. The first reason is that high-end work is selling on it already, despite the fact it’s online and has only been online since the end of June. On July 30th, the team announced they had sold a 1982 Basquiat for $10.8 million. The work was guaranteed and carried an estimate of $8 -12 million. This is impressive and shows the potential for the app’s future and the appetite for auctioned works beyond the main houses’ offerings.

The second reason is that it ushers in a new way of selling art which although rooted in the auction model, certainly borrows from the hype marketing surrounding street wear and ‘drops’. By limiting supply and advertising exclusively through Instagram and their app, the process emulates a Supreme drop. This isn’t unique to Fair Warning, as the online arts platform Avant Arte have been doing a similar thing for a while now. Avant Arte focuses on editioned works by mid-career to big name artists and is more of a transparent and open operating, but it’s interesting to see this approach gradually entering the market. 

 

Cover image: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, oil stick on paper, 1982.

By Max Lunn

 

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

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