Online auction goes awry

Art lovers wanting to buy a nice, cheap painting at the RUG auction last month were disappointed. Due to technical difficulties, the online auction went completely awry. Now it has to be done all over.
By Wigger Brouwer / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The 353 artworks stemming from the Beeldende Kunstenaars Regeling (BKR) were auctioned off in the third week of April. However, everyone who bid on the works will have to do so again.

Due to a technical problem, people were able to bid on the works even after the auction had closed. Buyers who thought they had won got a nasty surprise when they were outbid after all.

According to Hans Raspe at auction house Omnia, the malfunction was caused by an update in the external data centre’s software. ‘It’s like a car breaking down. It couldn’t be helped. It was the first time something like this has ever happened to us. We feel really bad about it.’

Fair chance

Because Omnia wants to give everyone a fair chance to buy a piece of art, they decided to do the auction again. To ensure that everything goes right this time, they will work together with the online auction house Onlineveilingmeester. According to Raspe, the company has more experience with online auctions.

The ‘second round’ will start Wednesday, 3 May, at The auction will close on Monday, 8 May, at 8 p.m. Bids will once again start at 5 euros. Any and all original bids will be cancelled.

In spite of the malfunction, the auction was a success. Out of the 353 pieces, most of which were paintings paintings, 351 were bid on. There was a wide range of bids, with the highest coming in at 3,600 euros for a piece by Job Hansen (1899 – 1960), a member of famous Groningen art group De Ploeg.

‘These things happen’

The RUG has been very understanding about the problems surrounding the auction. Jan Waling Huisman at the University Museum does not think anyone is to blame for the situation. ‘It was a technical malfunction. These things happen. Omnia’s solution is fine, and we’re counting on the rest of the auction going smoothly.’

One art lover, Paulien, however, is less happy about how the auction went. She bid on several paintings in April. ‘It was kind of a bummer when it turned out we hadn’t won the pieces after all. I don’t think I’m going to bid again. It’s just not as fun anymore.’


The BKR arrangement was in place between 1956 and 1987 and gave artists an allowance in return for art pieces. The artists would hand the pieces over to the municipality. The idea was good (the artists had room to work on their art), but in practice, the BKR was not a success.

To this day, many municipalities still do not know what to do with the large amount of art pieces in their possession. The quality is also lacking at times: some artists would slap together a painting just to be able to get their allowance.


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