The worldwide art and collectibles auction trade has become worldwide over the past decade because of greater wealth that has been accumulated by entrepreneurs around the globe and because of the ability of buyers in far-flung locations to participate in sales through online bidding. To accommodate that demand, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Heritage Auctions all have created their own in-house online bidding platforms, but most every other auctioneer relies on an outside company, the largest being the Manhattan-based LiveAuctioneers.
With the emergence of that globalized, online art market there have also been some new problems, like a higher incidence of successful bidders refusing to pay, particularly in countries with new wealth, such as China and Russia, and some have criticized LiveAuctioneers for its unwillingness to pursue such slow- and nonpayers. “When the hammer goes down on a sale, LiveAuctioneers demands its three-percent commission immediately, and we have to pay them,” said Leslie Hindman, who runs an auction house in Chicago, Illinois. “If the person who bid doesn’t pay, LiveAuctioneers won’t do anything. They won’t follow up with that person. They don’t give us the names of underbidders, so that we can try to sell the lot to someone else, and we have to petition to get back our three percent, which they are slow to return.”