Auctions News Market USA

Sotheby's teams up with eBay to stream auctions live

Auction house aims to make art accessible to eBay's 145m users

Sotheby’s New York auctions will be broadcast live on a new section of eBay’s website

Collectors will soon be able to browse eBay for blue-chip works of art as well as kitchen utensils, vintage handbags and spare car parts. Today, 14 July, the online retail giant announced it is teaming up with Sotheby's to stream auctions live in a bid to bring art to the masses. Starting late this year, eBay will broadcast most auctions at Sotheby's New York via a new section of its website, allowing 145m users to bid on works of art, antiques and fine wines, among other categories. There are plans to extend the model to Sotheby's salerooms around the world.

While auction houses have offered online auctions for several years, the art trade has been slower than most industries to embrace the internet. Until recently, the consensus has been that there is no substitute for seeing—and buying—art in the flesh. But opinion is changing and online sales are growing fast. Last year, visitors to Christie's website were up 19%, while online-only sales totalled £13.2m. The auction house is investing accordingly; in May it announced a $20m investment in its online business.

The digital future also looks bright at Sotheby's. Online bidders competed for 17% of all lots offered in 2013, while online sales increased 36% compared with 2012. Sotheby's figures also suggest collectors are becoming comfortable parting with large sums of money over the internet. In April, John James Audubon’s folio, The Birds of America sold for $3.5m—a record for an online purchase in a live auction at Sotheby’s.

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