On The Square

Discovering a Frank Stella: Online Auctions Attract New Art Collectors

By Bidsquare

Mar 05,2021 | 15:00 EST

The internet wasn’t always the boundless landscape of shoppable items and virtual experiences as we now know it to be. The early developers who saw it as a sharp tool for military intelligence and academic research (snooze…) would have never foresaw the degree to which the online world has become a personal and dynamic extension of our everyday lives. As a matter of fact, the first secure transaction ever made on the internet was 27 years ago, when a college kid named Dan Kohn sold his friend a Sting solo CD for $12.48, plus shipping - a radical ideal in 1994, but in our post-covid world, making purchases through the internet is readily commonplace and evolving quickly across multiple industries. Now, the convenience of restocking one's refrigerator is met with the same clickable ease as, say, securing a valuable artwork during a live, online auction.

It’s been a year since the pandemic started taking shape around the world and for many of us, that means staying at home for the vast majority of the time - learning, working, socializing and shopping, all made possible with the help of our computers. However, as immense as our digital worlds have become, online platforms like Bidsquare have seen a noticeable uptick in engagement - first time and seasoned buyers looking to spruce up their spaces with fine art, antiques, furniture, and the like. The Covid-19 pandemic had a severe impact on the traditional art market, a new report shows - as reported by Barrons.com, global Online-Only Auction Sales amongst the top 3 houses Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phllips grew exponentially in 2020 and surpassed $1B mark. In 2020, enjoying one’s home environment was elevated to a whole other standard. First time art buyers are flocking to auction platforms to source pieces that will uplift their spirits and their spaces.

So, how does a vibrant, 6’ tall, Frank Stella go from being a tab in your search browser to hanging triumphantly on your living room wall?

We asked Katherine Ahn, a new online art collector who recently bid on and won Lot 76, a towering abstract by the artist during a live Bidsquare auction. Katherine, a New York City resident, is a Product Manager at Square and is responsible for defining the company’s buyer facing ecommerce and shopping experiences - obviously, she’s no stranger to buying online, but, even she was surprised at how easy it was to find art she loved and place live bids for it in an auction on Bidsquare. Here, she shares her experience of bidding and winning a Frank Stella print online:


Lot 76, Frank Stella, The Quarter Deck from The Waves, published by Waddington Graphics, London, 1989 / Seen in the Shapiro Auction catalog on Bidsquare.com 

BSQ: What was it that first got you interested in collecting art and eventually online art collecting?

KA: My collecting was actually sparked by travel. When I was young, I would go with my parents to different countries, states, and cities where I began creating my own art through photographing the various places we would visit. I was intrigued by the perspective of an artist and how one could represent the culmination of an experience in a place to capture culture. Instead of souvenirs (like key chains or t-shirts) I was drawn to handmade goods such as pottery, clothing, jewelry and eventually paintings and photography. My passion for art grew as I brought these pieces home with me. I could be drawn back to a place and feel their presence on a wall or a shelf in my home. Over the past few years, I’ve developed a resounding appreciation for simply gazing at a painting and noticing how it can evoke different feelings and thoughts on different days, depending on my own inner state. 

As art became more accessible online, it got easier to facilitate a relationship with different artworks without physically going to an art gallery or seeking it out through travel. Art can be vibrant and dynamic, in that it’s driven by the intent, skill and experience of the artist but also the interpretation of the individual that’s appreciating it. The outcome is not singular. Art engages the human element between the artist and the collector which, in turn, deepens its vibrancy.

BSQ: Was this your first time bidding online? If so, how would you describe your experience on Bidsquare?

KA: Yes, it was my first time bidding on Bidsquare! At first, I was a bit apprehensive...buying art is a serious commitment, especially so without being able to see or interact with the piece in person. However, I was familiar with the artist and after spending some time on the website, Bidsquare was able to make me feel close to the art. In the end, I felt secure about purchasing the work through such a trusted and established auction platform.

Lot 76, Frank Stella, The Quarter Deck from The Waves, published by Waddington Graphics, London, 1989 / Purchased online at auction on Bidsquare now hanging in Katherine’s New York City Apartment

BSQ: You bid on and won an amazing Frank Stella print recently - what was it like to bid live on Bidsquare? And, what attracted you to that print?

KA: I’ve always appreciated Frank Stella’s work and have recently dove deeper into understanding his artwork, his life, and approach. I cannot say what specifically drew me to the print - the colors, the composition, the emotion...it was a multitude of reasons - mostly I just liked it!

BSQ: How has access to so many different online auctions broadened or honed in on your art collecting interests? Any new artists on your radar or surprising aesthetic developments?

KA: It’s definitely enabled me to discover new art that falls within the realm of my aesthetic and has also allowed me to expand and surprise myself by being drawn to completely new genres of art. It’s also been an amazing education tool. With access to so many online auctions, Bidsquare has broadened my understanding of what’s available as well as the different forms and types of art that rotate through the market. At first, I was only interested in original paintings, but through this learning process, I discovered the wonderful world of prints! Generally, prints are found at more affordable price points than original paintings are and have proven to be a great gateway to collecting.

BSQ: What is your favorite aspect of using Bidsquare?

KA: I can go on Bidsquare to explore and find interesting pieces to collect anytime I feel like it! Even if I don’t sit down with the intent to purchase, I can still discover items and gain holistic knowledge about the things that interest me. There’s also a community aspect to Bidsquare which I enjoy. For instance, during a live auction, I love being able to join the livestream as a participant without having to be physically there. As a first time auction-goer, I was able to navigate the process of setting up my account, registering for an auction, bidding, winning, and coordinating the logistics for delivery, without assistance - Bidsquare makes it very easy and trustworthy!

BSQ: Living in New York City means you have the art world at your fingertips! Could you talk about some of your influences?

KA: I’m inspired by the diversity of the art in New York City on a daily basis. There’s always a new gallery to be explored, not to mention some of the world’s most renowned museums are just a subway ride or leisurely stroll away!

I’m innately drawn to minimalist painters such as Yves Klein, Clyfford Still, Josef Albers, Carmen Herrera, and Frank Stella. Personally, I find the “less is more” aspect of minimalist artists particularly powerful. The ability to make a bold statement through seemingly simple compositions is something I find masterful and profound.

BSQ: The pandemic has kept many of us at home, which means updating one’s space is top-of-mind - have you ramped up your redecorating as well?

KA: I’ve definitely been investing more in home decor. Given that I’m spending so much time at home, it has become increasingly important to develop my space to become even more beautiful and aesthetically pleasing.

BSQ: What’s on your Bidsquare wishlist?

KA: Recently, these two screenprints!

Lot 624, Alex Katz "Orange Hat" Screenprint, Signed Edition

Lot 637, Ben Cunningham Screenprint Diptych, Signed Edition


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