artnet Asks: Christopher Barnekow of Barnebys

His search platform is changing the online auctions market as we know it.

Christopher Barnekow.

As co-founder and CEO of Barnebys, Christopher Barnekow knows the auction market inside and out. Created out of a frustration with the lack of accessibility in traditional auction houses, Barnebys  makes collecting more accessible by offering a centralized online platform for searching the auction market. Here, we discuss the rapidly shifting nature of his business and how Barnebys fits into the expanding online art world.

Barnebys has been in business since 2011. How did your story begin?
The story basically began with me looking for a still life oil painting for my newly re-decorated kitchen in my country home. I had no previous experience with auctions, and not really with antiques either—it struck me that such lack of transparency and high barriers of entry were extremely un-modern in comparison to every other retail or e-commerce experience that’s out there.

The Swedish auction market was in the midst of a great change at the time, which meant that we launched Barnebys at exactly the right moment. We had 90% of the local Scandinavian market listed on our website within three months of launch.

Andy Warhol, Ingrid Bergman. Courtesy of Barnebys.

Andy Warhol, Ingrid Bergman. Courtesy of Barnebys.

How has buying online revolutionized the auction business?
From my perspective, the greatest change is for the users, who for the first time have true access to this great market of unique items. We offer daily access to a catalogue of more than 400,000 lots. If we can lower the entry barrier for users accustomed to e-commerce to this fantastic industry, we could potentially change the way people buy things—from new off-the-shelf items to re-used design classics and antiques sold by 300-year old companies.

What type of work do collectors most frequently buy online vs in a traditional auction house? Do you see this shifting?
It is shifting, towards more buyers at mid-range price segments but in rapidly growing number of transactions. The turnover is much faster.

Yves Klein. Courtesy of Barnebys.

Yves Klein. Courtesy of Barnebys.

How important is brand trust in the field? How have you built a successful brand for Barnebys?
Brand is everything. Until now, houses and dealers have leased out their inventory to different sales platforms, doing business on arbitrage. This has meant a growing distance between the houses and its customers. Our mission is to close this distance again and put the transaction on to the houses and dealers own sites.

Who is today’s online buyer? Has this demographic drastically changed in the past several years?

Yes, today’s buyer might be younger, but foremost someone that buys and sells things reflecting his or her lifestyle rather than a special interest or collecting behavior. We’re talking about shoppers rather than collectors.

artnet Auction House Partnerships offer an ideal way for auction houses to gain international exposure for their sales and lots. Learn more about becoming a partner here, or explore upcoming sales here.

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