Sotheby's has reached an agreement with eBay to begin live broadcast of its New York City auctions on a new section of the popular website, opening up its 145 million customers around the world to bidding on everything from fine wine to expensive artwork.
According to The New York Times
, the agreement comes on the heels of complaints from Sotheby's activist shareholder Daniel S. Loeb who grumbled about Sotheby's business practices, calling the auction house "an old painting in desperate need of restoration" and called for it to improve its online sales strategy.
The Times noted this is the second such agreement between Sotheby's and eBay, with the first one dying in 2003. Officials told the newspaper that they believed the market has matured enough to try again.
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The Wall Street Journal reported
that the global art market is currently about $65 billion and estimated online art sales could reach $13 billion before the end of the decade. The Journal said in 2013, online bidders competed for 17 percent of total lots offered by Sotheby's.
"The growth of the art market, new generation technology and our shared strengths make this the right time for this exciting new online opportunity," Bruno Vinciguerra, Sotheby's chief operating officer, said in a statement by the auction house
. "We are joining with eBay to make our sales more accessible to the broadest possible audience around the world."
The Journal said eBay will revamp its marketplace, where Sotheby's will be the main tenant, which will include a new live auction feature and real-time bidding, in an effort to attract art collectors as well as first-time buyers.
"A Sotheby's-eBay partnership is a significant milestone in our effort to expand the live auction market," said eBay's marketplaces president Devin Wenig. "When you combine its inventory with eBay's technology platform and global reach, we can give people access to the world's finest, most inspiring items – anytime, anywhere and from any device. That is an experience we believe our customers will love."
Vinciguerra said that while Sotheby's auctions may be out of reach of the majority of eBay's customers, the site still has the potential of paying off big for the auction house.
"Even if we only reach point one percent of eBay users, that's huge for us," Vinciguerra told the Times.
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