Eighth Wonder: Paddle8 Takes Art Online

Cory Clarke, Adam Berninger, Aditya Julka, Alexander Gilkes, Hikari Yokoyama, Dean Di Simone. Photo courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency

Compulsory, adrenaline-click shopping may be the Internet’s biggest gift to civilization. The abstract nature of the process makes buying feel less like a transaction where you’re losing to gain, and more like getting a gift from a god dressed up as a postman. For those looking to receive air-mailed treasures unavailable in the local corner shop—unless one’s corner shop is Gagosian—a cropping of online venues have appeared on the scene. The newest, the most thoroughly curatorial and editorial, and perhaps the most visually intriguing—and the only one with the backing of big-time curators—is Paddle8.

Despite its name, Paddle8 is not a web site that hosts auctions. The core of the site is a curated online group exhibition. Each month, Paddle8 invites a high-profile individual from in or around the art world to create a show , with 20 exclusive artworks available. The second exhibition, titled and themed “Wit,” was organized by Glenn O’Brien and opens today.  It features art from Richard Prince, Dan Colen and Ray Johnson, among others. The next exhibition will feature still-life photographs selected by famed curator and critic Vince Aletti.

Founded in 2010 by Alexander Gilkes, formerly the Global Marketing Director and charismatic auctioneer of Philips de Pury, and entrepreneur Aditya Julka, Paddle8 comes from the latter’s experience as a new collector buying art from intimidating galleries but craving the type of community they can engender. “[The world of art auctions] can be very clubby and esoteric,” says Gilkes. The site aims to educate, and welcome collectors to the club—and maybe loosen up the art world along the way.

In the real world, the whole world is not invited to the auctions, and galleries reserve the right not to sell work to anyone they choose. This practice continues on Paddle8, mostly to discourage flipping, says Gilkes. While one must be invited to join Paddle8 in order to place a bid or check prices, anyone can view the shows from the safety of their desk.

What the site cannot offer is the actual experience of looking at art in-person. To compensate, the founders brought in art adviser Hikari Yokoyama to develop a web site that would be well-rounded, with articles and exra-curricular material on each of the artists featured in an exhibition. These “Dossier” sections include original videos of studio visits and a look at critical responses to the work. This might not be the hallowed auratic experience Walter Benjamin described in art, but it’s certainly fun and cool—and the perfect new experience and conversation fodder for both first-time collectors and the old guard.

 The site’s look and feel feels a bit more egalitarian than some of Chelsea’s frostier galleries. Playful quotes are matched with dynamic displays of artworks, which are photographed at extremely high-resolution to afford close inspection. The works might just look better on Paddle8 than anywhere else.

From”Wit”: Richard Prince, Untitled (Van Door 3), 2007.