Leon Black’s Phaidon Confirms Purchase of Artspace

Leon Black.
Photo: © 2014 Patrick McMullan Company, Inc.

Just a day after Bloomberg’s Katya Kazakina broke the story that collector Leon Black, through a division of his art publishing business, Phaidon, was close to a deal to acquire online art seller Artspace (see “Leon Black To Buy Online Art Sales Startup Artspace?“), the news was confirmed today, August 14, in a release from Phaidon. The publisher’s senior publicist Kate Greenberg called the deal a “global partnership” that will establish a “community for art enthusiasts and professionals, artists, collectors, non-profits, galleries, and cultural institutions.”

Phaidon said the deal, termed an “investment,” will strengthen its access to collectors around the world who buy its art and design books and that Artspace will benefit from Phaidon’s global distribution and retail operation as well as its relationships with artists. A rep for Phaidon did not comment on the value of the deal or the ratio of cash to stock in the offer.

Keith Fox, CEO of Phaidon said the company is “thrilled with the investment in Artspace. We look forward to enriching the experience of our audience and expanding our reach through new initiatives, including retail presence, product development, and the joint creation of original content.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. According to the Bloomberg report, talks that Artspace had been holding with Berlin-based online auction house Auctionata fell apart because the offer was stock only. Despite the lack of proven success in the arena of selling art online to date, there is no shortage of businesses racing to compete for buyers including Artsy and Paddle8, which have attracted millions in venture capital funding but year on year fail to show profits or even a clear revenue stream. Major auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s have also poured tens of millions of dollars into their online initiatives.

The latest Bloomberg report includes details about Artspace’s mailing list, which it says has 150,000 active art collectors, according to Artspace co-founder and CEO Catherine Levene. About half of that list came from Artspace’s acquition of the virtual fair known as the VIP Art fair in 2013. The much-buzzed about fair was considered a flop in terms of sales for the two years it was held.


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