Yesterday, July 14, 2014, Sotheby’s and eBay announced a partnership that will unite the global leader in online shopping with the iconic auction house. According to a joint press release, “together, they are developing an online platform that will make it easier for millions of people worldwide to discover, browse and acquire works of art, antiques and collectibles.

“Both companies contribute strong capabilities to the partnership. Sotheby’s brings expertise, world-class artwork and collectibles, as well as auction experience, while eBay’s technology platform, integrated payment solutions and unrivalled skill in attracting online collectors enable a global audience of 145 million active buyers to enjoy frictionless shopping.”

eBay and Sotheby’s will start by offering a number of live auctions that are taking place at Sotheby’s headquarters in New York. There is no firm date for the launch of the live streaming, but it will be late this year or early next year, according to Sotheby’s spokesman Andrew Gully.

“The move comes just ahead of eBay’s earnings, which are set to be released on Wednesday, and as more and more start-ups, such as Artsy, Artspace and Paddle8 allow consumers to buy art on the web. Last year, Amazon announced it would sell works by artists such as Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol on its website”, according to BBC.

“The growth of the art market, new generation technology and our shared strengths make this the right time for this exciting new online opportunity,” said Bruno Vinciguerra, Sotheby’s Chief Operating Officer. “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, said, “A Sotheby’s-eBay partnership is a significant milestone in our efforts to expand the live auction market. Sotheby’s is one of the most respected names in the world. 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.”

“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,” added Vinciguerra.

Both companies will focus on growing the market at price points where they expect their collectors to converge in the future – particularly in the segments such as jewelry, watches, prints, wine, photographs and 20th century design. The global art market is currently estimated around $65 billion, with annual online sales far below averages for other luxury goods. Projections show online art sales could reach $13 billion by 2020, according to TEFAF 2014 Report. Online bidders for Sotheby’s competed for 17% of all lots offered in 2013, while online sales increased 36% compared with 2012. In April, John James Audubon’s elephant-folio The Birds of America sold for $3.5m online via a live auction at Sotheby’s – a record for the firm.