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LOFTY a welcome addition to online art sites

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New York based art start up company LOFTY has been around for less than a year and it’s already making waves in the community both locally and nationally. An online marketplace for art and antiques, LOFTY.com is the newest art tech company to join the growing list of influential sites, which includes iGavel, Paddle8, and Artsy.

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In an art world where most auctions boast about sales in the millions of dollars and beyond, LOFTY is reaching out to those whose love for art doesn’t extend into such deep pockets. In fact, all of their art sells within the $500-$50,000 range.

If you peruse the site, you’ll find a wealth of art and antiques for sale, from pearl earrings to Persian rugs, limited edition art prints, designer handbags, mahogany furniture, painted Indian manuscript pages, and so much more. You’ll get an education just from visiting the site, even if you end up not purchasing anything – each image is accompanied by a description of the piece, including the time period, condition of the art, provenance, and artist information. This is exactly one of the hopes for the site, according to creator Mark Lurie, a 28-year-old Harvard Business School graduate: “I've always loved learning about the history of art and antiques at museums. I thought, 'Why can't items for sale online have similar trustworthy, curatorial descriptions?'"

LOFTY is accessible, easy to navigate, organized, and exciting to peruse. Each work comes with an authenticity guarantee and a money back guarantee should a purchaser be unhappy with the work in any way. LOFTY is built on a network of reliable art experts and backed by wealthy investors. Helping to review incoming works and vouching for their authenticity are the company’s director Sarah Shinn Pratt, a former Sotheby’s vice president and auctioneer, and an enterprising business woman with antiques trading and other experiences; Clinton Howell, of New York’s Clinton Howell Antiques, and president of the widely recognized Art and Antique Dealers League of America (AADLA); as well as Gary Sohmers, operator of Wex Rex Collectibles and Saxonville Auction Services, and a contributor to PBS’s Antiques Roadshow. Financial backers include Brook Haxelton, of St. James Partners, and a former CEO of Phillips Auction House; the Founders Find Angel, a venture capital founded in part by Paypal ‘s Peter Thiel, and internet entrepreneur Fabrice Grinda, both of which recently committed a total $3 million to the budding company. Grinda fully believes in the future of LOFTY, commenting, "LOFTY'S innovative and unique approach has the potential to transform the art, antiques, and collectibles market. In the future there will be four major players: eBay at the low end, Sotheby's and Christie's at the highest end of the market, and LOFTY for items between $500 and $50,000 in value."

The success that LOFTY has had so far is evidence of Lurie’s and his coordinators’ confidence in the company, and of the obvious need in the art world for an online outlet benefiting the middle market. LOFTY is unique in that it’s not a major seller like Sotheby’s catering to major dealers and sellers, and it’s not a sell-by-yourself auction site like ebay where anyone can post items for auction without any guarantee of authenticity. Lurie believes in delivering a quality product, and he is certainly succeeding. Some of the most recent sales were for a platinum diamond and sapphire Omega watch ($6000); a 20th century Royal Copenhagen porcelain figural group from Sønderjylland, Denmark and made by Carl Martin-Hansen ($3450); and a pink blown glass sculpture signed and donated by Dale Chihuly ($10000).

Check out the site for some truly exciting and rare finds – Sandow Birk’s new three-volume interpretation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, complete with illustrated black and white lithographs and morocco gilt, available for $9600; an American hobnail safe from the 19th century with a brass key and brass handle, on sale for $7200; and a Chanel Mongolian lamb fur sweater coat from the 2009 Russian runway collection, for purchase at $1200. If you really want to purchase these or any of the hundreds of offerings on the site, the process is so easy – simply click the nice orange “Buy” button to add products to your cart (just like in Amazon), then create an account and sign in to proceed to the checkout. No additional fees except for insured shipping – simple!

And if you want to get rid of those rare books that have been hiding in your basement for a hundred years, selling on LOFTY is also simple. After creating an account, upload photos and description and receive a free evaluation from LOFTY’s experts – if you want to sell, one click will offer your work for sale on the site. LOFTY coordinates packing, shipping and insurance, and takes a 25% commission from items in their fixed-price marketplace or 10% from items consigned to auction.

Says Lurie, "My goal with LOFTY was to create a useful and reliable place where collectors can go to find and fulfill their collecting aspirations. I also wanted to help people around the country discover the history and value of the items in their lofts, attics and basements. Finally, I had the lofty goal of bringing meaningful transparency to the fine art, antiques and collectibles market. From the success of LOFTY so far, I can already tell it's just what the online market has been waiting for." It seems Lurie’s lofty goal is, in less than a year, already accomplished.

Do you have experience with LOFTY or other online art sites? Let us know your experience by commenting in the space below. To learn more about art auctions, exhibits and fairs, subscribe to Jennifer’s page or follow her on social media by the links at the top of the page.

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