Christie’s sells $142 million Francis Bacon art piece: Was its owner a Squatter?

Heritage Auctions, the third largest auction house in the world after only Sotheby’s and Christie’s, just successfully auctioned the first lot of domain names by a major auction house, closing around a half a million dollars of domain sales in the live auction (and still more in the silent auction following). On the other hand, despite Steve Forbes speaking about domain investors’ savvy vision, a Forbes author was just taken to task for calling domain investors “cyber squatters” and generally writing an unresearched, naive article bashing the value of domain name investment.

Last week, Christie’s auction house sold a Francis Bacon piece for $142 million. Where was this incredible art piece for all these years? If the owner did not have it displayed in a public building, was he an art squatter? If the public didn’t have access to view it or enjoy was the owner not using it for a viable purpose?  What if the owner mostly had it privately displayed but sometimes rented it to a museum, then would that make him an art squatter?

Of course not. Fine art, and especially such a superb piece, is an excellent example of an asset that appreciates over time and has multiple options for the investor. Let’s compare that to a premium domain investment:

Advantages of Premium Domain Acquisitions

Disadvantages of Fine Art vs Premium Domain Acquisitions

Domain investment is a largely untapped opportunity. While the Christie’s Auction offered a Francis Bacon with unprecedented parallel, the Heritage Auctions domains lot did not feature the most premium domains available. Heritage Auctions chose domain names that they thought their investors/collectors would appreciate.

Whether they made the right choices is up for debate, but certainly a 50% +/- sell through rate and $500,000 in sales could be considered a success for a first outing.  Generally, it is indicative that domain name values are becoming better understood and more mainstream.  It is a slow process, and hopefully Heritage is in it for the long haul.

There is absolutely no reason why an investor looking to put some money into premium art wouldn’t or shouldn’t also consider investing part of their capital into super premium and unique domain assets.  Take a look at some examples of such assets, which are currently available, and which will undoubtedly continue to appreciate in value, while generating some passive revenue in the meantime:  Sale.com, Soda.com, VR.com (think Vacation Rentals), BikeRentals.com, Gab.com, Fig.com, Solution.com, Dojo.com, Copies.com, Illustration.com (Animation.com sold in the aution for $95,000), Cut.com, CH.com, PX.com, OE.com, EO.com, IA.com, IE.com, DAM.com, SSN.com, Oregano.com, Margins.com, Shed.com… and thousands more which can be had at today’s market rates or below.

We domainers have done a poor job as an industry of educating not just businesses and consumers about the value of premium domain names, but also investors of other asset classes like art.  We are terrible ambassadors of our industry.  Top tier investors that collect art, real estate, jewelry, baseball cards & the like could be and should be interested, involved and invested in our market.  Our pond should be an ocean.  We hear it all the time from clients who could turn out to be huge investors in the domain space, but have been turned off.  They tell us, “I contacted the domain owner and instead of giving me a price he told me to go to hell.”  Things like this are unacceptable, yet they happen all the time.  Daily in fact.  But it’s this type of unprofessionalism that leaves our industry in the dark ages and prevents a live domain auction in downtown Manhattan, held by the 3rd largest auction house in the world, from reaching $2 million – $5 million in sales as it may have in 2006.

As a domain broker, we have made it our duty to stop this vicious loop and help educate businesses and investors alike about the opportunity that is premium, generic & brandable domain names.  We understand domain values very well.  We live, eat, sleep & breathe domain names; buying, trading, evaluating, monetizing.  It is for this very reason that every day we are buying premium domains at way below value and successfully monetizing them or selling them.  What we do is repeatable; it’s not magic, but it requires time, focus, education & patience – the same as is required to understand the art market (which is even more complex in my eyes, and even more opaque).

Our approach is data driven.  Data is universal: any one can access it and use it to their advantage to make smart decisions.  Smart decisions lead to profits.  An intelligent investor in combination with a capable domain broker can be a powerful tool for wealth preservation and profit generation.

If you take the time to read any of the numerous articles about the $142 million art sale of Francis Bacon’s painting, you will see that all of the top bidders which went above the expected $80 million valuation were all brokers…every last one. Art brokers representing savvy and wealthy clients from all over the world…  Those clients paid the broker a commission on the purchase, not just to sit in a stuffy room and raise his paddle, but to advise them on the value, the other bidders, the strategy, etc.  I watch an auction like the Heritage domain auction and I wonder, why aren’t there any brokers sitting in that room on their cell phone with a client in Russia, China, Brazil or any other place on Earth where their client is sitting, listening to their advice and saying, “ok, go up another $100k!”

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