It seems like one of the most unlikely of partnerships. On the one hand you have Sotheby’s, one of the most successful, historic and powerful auction houses in the world, and on the other, there is eBay, a global online marketplace, which has, in a short space of time, established itself as part of the fabric of everyday life.
But there you have it, new era, post-recession, economic pick-up, business confidence and all that jazz, the twenty first century. Less than two decades old, the new millennium continues to surprise. Old habits die hard, of course, history on loop, but against this, our capacity for originality endures.
The aim of this new venture is relatively modest at face value – to make art auctions accessible online. Bidding, it seems, has finally caught up with the modern world and so it is, we’re all one click away from securing a masterpiece.
Naturally, both sides will bring their respective knowledge and skills to the table – together they do present themselves as an indomitable force in what is set to be a burgeoning area of activity in the world of fine art.
Sotheby’s has unrivalled expertise, access to world-class works of art and collectibles – as well all the relevant contacts – and a long history of delivering commanding auctions. eBay meanwhile is technologically savvy, delivers integrated payment solutions and has a global audience of some 145 million active buyers.
As to how best to describe this development, the jury is still out. Various media organisations have respectively labelled it as a virtual auction house, the streamification of auctions, an online marketplace and a web platform for the buying and selling of art.
“The growth of the art market, new generation technology and our shared strengths make this the right time for this exciting new online opportunity,” commented Bruno Vinciguerra, chief operating officer at Sotheby’s. “We are joining with eBay to make our sales more accessible to the broadest possible audience around the world.”
Devin Wenig, president of eBay Marketplaces, added that a Sotheby’s-eBay partnership represents a “significant milestone” in the company’s efforts to expand the potential of live auctions in a digital age.
“Sotheby’s is one of the most respected names in the world,” he continued. “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.”
Although no official start day for the new service has been given, Sotheby’s and eBay did reveal that they would start offering a number of live auctions that are taking place at the former’s headquarters in New York.
They also explained that a focused new space is to be established on eBay’s site, designed to engage established, emerging and entry-level collectors and investors with an interest in preeminent works of art.