It would seem then that the app is starting to disrupt the established market beyond its founder’s expectations. It’s worth remembering though that another 1982 work by Basquiat, his untitled skull painting, sold for a hefty $110.5 million in 2017 in a live auction at Sotheby’s, ten times that of the sale on Fair Warning.
So, the app is selling high-cost artworks, but not the real big potatoes yet by any means. That the app has upset some big players, including Larry Gagosian, a long-time collaborator with Gouzer through his global portfolio of Gagosian galleries, should also raise a question mark.
The future then is by no means assured for Fair Warning – and one of the first online art auction platforms – Paddle8, offers a cautionary tale. Launched in 2011 by an auctioneer, a banker and a Harvard Business School graduate, Paddle8 got off to a good start selling artworks up to $100, 000. A long and complicated series of takeovers, mergers and lawsuits however led in 2020 to the platform filing for bankruptcy, with creditors including a long list of charities, headed by among others, JayZ and Justin Bieber.
At the same time, the app offers huge opportunities for both producers of digital art and consumers. Another potential question-mark hanging over the app relates to the nature of the art market itself. Are the super-rich who buy these works happily just to push a few buttons to obtain their artwork? Is the art auction not like a day at the races or the casino – a place to see and be seen?
Maybe, but then maybe not. Yusaku Maezawa, the Chinese-born billionaire, bid by phone from his home in Japan when he bought Basquiat’s afore-mentioned skull painting in just ten minutes. As soon as he bought it he announced it on Instagram – as he said: “When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art, I want to share that experience with as many people as possible”.