Paddle8’s Invitation-Only Website Revives the Art World
by marina cashdan
Virtual gallerists Aditya Julka and Alexander Gilkes
The art world has been slower than most industries to embrace the Internet, but as of late, art acquisition sites like Paddle8, the VIP Art Fair, Artspace, and the soon-to-launch art-only search engine Art.sy are blazing a trail. What sets Paddle8 apart, says cofounder Aditya Julka, is that it’s a platform that not only “allows collectors to browse rare art works free from the constraints of time and geography,” but also gives viewers a private space to validate their tastes with their peers, in effect creating a social networking hub for collectors. “This is the perfect complement to our generation’s need for immediacy, enhanced education, and a global perspective on cultural trends,” says Julka.
In 2010, when Julka and Paddle8 cofounder Alexander Gilkes were introduced, they felt there was a big gap in the art market. “It seemed fine art was reaching new audiences, but the acquisition of great works remained less accessible,” says Gilkes. He realized, while serving as a global marketing director at the auction house Phillips de Pury, there was a “need for a global hub to connect artists, galleries, and fairs with collectors.” At the time, Julka was a young entrepreneur with a background in biotechnology and biochemical engineering, whom Gilkes describes as “looking to build his art collection and acquire critically approved works, yet frustrated by his lack of free time to visit art fairs and galleries.”
Gilkes’s background at Phillips de Pury and luxury monolith LVMH and Julka’s Harvard Business School degree equipped the two young entrepreneurs with essential tools for the game— contacts and venture capital. However, Gilkes admits that their company’s name is somewhat misleading. It is inspired by the recognized symbol of acquiring art in auction, the paddle, yet Paddle8 is not really an auction platform but, rather, “a negotiation system.”
As well as offering collectors the opportunity to privately shop for works by boldface names such as Richard Prince, Tom Sachs, and Jenny Holzer from the privacy of their own homes, the invite-only site also allows influential cultural figures—including Marina Abramovic, Glenn O’Brien, and James Franco—to curate five-week, Web-only exhibitions, with accompanying dossiers that offer an intimate look at artists’ processes and techniques.
The site will finish the year with exciting events. On December 15, Paddle8 will participate in a panel on mediating the experience of art, in conjunction with the release of art publisher Phaidon’s new book The Art Museum. And each week in December Paddle8 will release new lots, with sales benefiting Free Arts, as part of Paddle8 For Good, a new initiative to support nonprofit art organizations.
photograph by Gregg Delman