Managing Director Allison Earl Woessner Locks the door on Kensington online auctioneers
Auction Atrium the online auction house in Kensington Church street founded by American entrepreneur, Allison Earl Woessner, appears to have gone bust. A notice appeared in the window today (2 February) stating the company had ‘Ceased Trading With Immediate Effect’. What this will mean to the area of online auctioneering is negligible, as the company has made little impact on an increasingly competitive market.
Founded in 2006, Auction Atrium was set up as an online answer to Christies and Sotheby’s with a bit of ebay thrown in for good measure. The company started off with a bang mounting a series of international quality sales in 20th Century Decorative Arts. In 2008 they went through a wilderness period selling handbags and costume jewellery, without much direction or focus. However, in 2010 with the help of local dealer Colin Monk, they hit the jackpot, with the exploding Chinese Market. At its peak, Auction Atrium turned over half million GBP in a single specialist sale.
Yesterday, the website was taken off-line during their popular, monthly ‘Kensington Sale’. Buyers and sellers were left in the lurch, not knowing what was going on. A message stated, “We are sorry that we are encountering some technical difficulties at present, we are working to resolve the issue”… This was still visible on the website today. However replaced with a new message at around 6:00 pm – “We regret to announce that the company has ceased trading due to the withdrawal of its investment support. We are doing our best to make sure that our clients will be protected in these difficult circumstances. We apologise for any inconveniences this may cause. Enquiries should be directed to…. All telephone support lines were also down, going straight to answer phone. It is thought that all staff have now been dismissed and that the company has gone into some form of liquidation.
Not even Paul Whitfield, who resigned as Chairman in December and whose “particular relevance to Auction Atrium was his experience in starting up successful auction enterprises, including the establishment of Christie’s South Kensington in 1975, Christie’s Glasgow salesroom, the re-launch of Bonhams in 1986 and as Managing Director of Sotheby’s in the early 1980’s”, could save the company.
Auction Atrium recently launched a new website called Intercollector, a sister website and a company owned by Auction Atrium. The future of this company is now up in the air and it will most likely form part of the assets of interest to Auction Atrium’s creditors.
Auction Atrium was the brainchild of Managing Director, Allison Earl Woessner. It was conceived to be a groundbreaking, internet based auction house selling fine art, antiques and collectables. It combined the full service customer care and security of a bricks and mortar auction house with the convenience of ongoing online auctions. The flagship showroom situated in the heart of the UK’s antiques trade on Kensington Church Street, enabled Auction Atrium to take advantage of opportunities within the trade, while also being convenient for private upmarket customers.
Woessner stated; “Auction Atrium is the ultimate hybrid of all that is good about the traditional auction environment combined with the fast-paced global scope of the Internet. It is the next generation of auction house. Our priority is protecting our customers not only from fraud and misrepresentation but also from any negative user experience. Auction Atrium combined expertise, transparency and service together with its bespoke bidding software and website that was developed and designed by the founders, specifically with the user experience in mind”. This all sounds like a hollow sound bite now that the reality of closure has set in.
Auction Atrium promoted themselves as, “A London based auction house selling fine art, antiques and jewellery online, combining the integrity, expertise and great attention to customer care with the dynamism, low transaction costs and versatility of the Internet”. Sadly, it was unable to survive past the five year mark and has now ceased to trade.
James Cowper Liquidator
Photo: Allison Earl Woessner Wearing Bulgari 2007