How a Family-run Business Shaped the Online Art Marketplace

By Abby Margulies

 Sophie Neuendorf

Sophie Neuendorf

We sat down with If So, What? media sponsor Artnet and brother and sister team Sophie Neuendorf and Jacob Pabst to learn more about their storied, family-run business, the way they see the art world changing, and why they are looking forward to being a part of If So, What? this year. Join us at If So, What? for a talk with Jacob Pabst to learn more about big data and the future of the online art marketplace.

 Jacob Pabst

Jacob Pabst

If So, What?: You are part of a family run business, which is a unique model in the States. Can you talk a little bit about how artnet evolved, and why people might be surprised to learn that a cutting edge digital platform came from a family business, and not a millennial start up?

Sophie Neuendorf: We grew up with art and our parents’ enthusiasm for it shaped our childhood. Our father was ahead of his time when he founded artnet 29 years ago, on the cusp of the digital age. His deep knowledge about the arts and art world, paired with his vision for making it transparent and accessible online, is something that has now crossed generations and has become a shared passion.

Jacob Pabst: I agree, the passion for art runs in the family and we are lucky to have so much expertise within the family and the company. artnet no longer is a family business in the traditional sense though; The company was founded in 1989 and has been public since 1999. Even though we have been around for almost 30 years, we kept our “start-up mentality” as proven in recent years with artnet Auctions, our online-only fine art auctions platform, as well as artnet News, the leading online publication in the art world.

ISW: Can you talk a little bit about the model you developed, bringing art sales online and then developing an editorial platform as well?

JP: We were ahead of the market when we realized that brick-and-mortar auction houses lacked speed and liquidity, which we successfully offer through artnet Auctions. artnet News, launched in 2014, enabling us to not only become a leading voice in the art market, but to bring the brand to a wider audience. Today, no other platform in the art market enables buying, selling, and researching art online like artnet does.

SN: Our goal is to provide our visitors a holistic experience of the art market. We created an online auctions platform and provided users with news (artnet News) about the arts, as well as the ability to research prices, through our Price Database and Gallery Network.

ISW: What drew you to If So, What?

SN: As a company that has always been on the forefront of art/technology, participating in an event that tackles questions and developments between these two fascinating industries, is what drew us to If So, What?.

JP: ISW’s mission and approach to connect art, design, and music in the heart of the world’s tech hub, created a unique and ideal platform we simply couldn’t resist attending. I’m thrilled artnet is a sponsor and actively participating in the event.

ISW: What do you think is appealing about If So What? versus other art fairs?

SN: It’s appealing because of its innovative program that encourages participants to think outside the box and question the future of both art and technology.

JP: I consider ISW to be far more than a traditional art fair. Just by looking at the variety of panelists and industry leading companies participating, it shows the new approach ISW has taken to create something never before seen.

ISW: What are your feelings about the west coast market, and Silicon Valley in particular? Are there any trends that you are seeing in that area?

SN: The West Coast has brought forth some incredible artists: Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston, and Robert Graham, to name a few. However, it was always relatively overlooked as a market—until now. In my opinion, the trends indicate a surge of interest in the West Coast, not only in its artistic movements, but as a point of sale.

JP:  Being the second largest US market after New York, it’s an area that we’re very interested in—especially as our data underlines the growth potential. With the art market getting even more accustomed to researching and trading online, I see Silicon Valley taking an important part in these close future developments, as well as shaping them.

ISW: Is there anything else that you would like to share?

SN: I think Jacob will agree when I say that we’re both very excited to be a part of If So, What? and the conversations surrounding art and the digital age.

JP: Absolutely, I look forward to the event and connecting with artists and technology leaders in one space. I love the concept and it’s fantastic that ISW closed the missing link between the industries at the fair level.