Sotheby’s Brings Live Online Auctions to EBay

by Andrew Wagner on July 14, 2014 · 1 comment Newswire

sothebysauction05-2006Sotheby’s and eBay are teaming up. Beginning this fall, Sotheby’s will stream its auctions over eBay’s site, ostensibly opening up its blue-chip art to a larger audience (The New York Times reports that Sotheby’s has a customer base of only 100,000 compared with eBay’s 145 million). According to The Guardian, Sotheby’s chief operating officer Bruno Vinciguerra said that the aim of the partnership is to “make our sales more accessible to the broadest possible audience around the world.” And The Art Newspaper has called the announcement a bid to bring art to the masses.

We’re dubious. Yes, Sotheby’s won’t be putting up multi-million Koons or Wools on the site, instead focusing on works in lower price ranges that might be more affordable to the eBay user. But, simply live-streaming the sale of luxury goods hardly seems like a major move towards breaking down the exclusivity of auction houses.

EBay, meanwhile, seems to be interested in the partnership as a means to make a grab for a slice of the high-end market. David Wenig, president of Global eBay Marketplaces, said that “if you look at what we were selling 10 years ago, it’s really different now. We sell a lot of expensive items, including roughly 13,000 automobiles every week to mobile shoppers. Customer trust in e-commerce has evolved.”

Recently, eBay has also made forays into working with another luxury industry; fashion.  A few weeks ago, eBay launched the “Designer’s Collective.” The project partners with 16 major designers, including Calvin Klein and True Religion, allowing them to sell their clothing directly through the online marketplace. Luxury markets whether for cars or real estate, are booming, and auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s continually set records with their contemporary art sales. Given that more than 3,500 of eBay’s daily auctions go for over $5,000, higher-end goods seem like a potent area for eBay to expand its offerings.

It remains to be seen, though, whether the project will actually benefit the two corporations–in 2002, a similar partnership was attempted and closed after a year. That failure could easily be attributed to factors that are no longer issues; at that time, the market was less developed, and so too was the business approach. Galleries unloaded a lot of low end inventory they couldn’t move on their sales floor, only to find there wasn’t a market for it online either.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome, though, calling an expansion of the luxury goods market an attempt towards greater accessibility seems a bit disingenuous. On Twitter, the announcement of the partnership was met with a heavy dose of skepticism:

 

  • Adrew Miller

    Its really great new regarding online auctions but do you know more deep process of Ebay regarding online auctions?
    Also thank you for sharing.

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