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Sotheby’s places another bid on eBay partnership

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Art dealer Sotheby’s on Monday unveiled a pact with eBay to host live New York auctions of art and collectibles in a bid to attract the online retailer’s 145 million active buyers.

The companies will start offering a number of live auctions that will take place at Sotheby’s headquarters in New York. EBay, meanwhile, will soon launch a new portion of its site tailored for collectors of rare, unique and premium art and collectibles, as well as first-time buyers.

The partnership isn’t the first time Sotheby’s and eBay and sought to work together. Their first foray was a bit of a flop, as a bit to offer separate online auctions on Sothebys.com was discontinued in 2003.

“There are simply not as many people prepared to buy authenticated fine art online as we had hoped, Sotheby’s CEO William Ruprecht told WSJ in 2003 when the auction house announced it would close its unprofitable joint online-auction venture with eBay.

Fast forward to 2014, Sotheby’s says the timing is right to join the growing art world with new technology.

“We believe there is a great opportunity, through this partnership, to truly make art more accessible to exponentially more collectors. That’s what makes this so exciting,” said Sotheby’s Chief Operating Officer Bruno Vinciguerra.

Sotheby’s will be the key “anchor tenant” in the revamped marketplace eBay intends to unveil, which will include a new live auction feature and real-time bidding.

The company said online bidders competed for 17% of the total lots it offered last year. In April of this year, a new record for an online purchase in a live auction at Sotheby’s was set when John James Audubon’s The Birds of America sold for $3.5 million.