eBay Launches Live Art Auctions This Week

Screen capture of an eBay auction for a Pablo Picasso print.

eBay users once again have the chance to bid on art in real time thanks to the online auction house’s second attempt to launch a live-auction product for fine art, reports the New York TimesAs announced earlier this year (see “eBay Launching Live Auction Platform Catering to Art Auction Houses“), the company’s live auctions will offer a number of related lots over the course of one day, eschewing the delayed bidding system eBay has traditionally been known for.

The auctions will be hosted at eBay.com/collectibles-liveauctions, with listings integrated into the eBay search engine. The live auctions utilize bidding technology and software from Invaluable, an online auction company specializing in art and collectibles.

The highly anticipated partnership between eBay and Sotheby’s, expected to be the anchor tenant in the new platform, has yet to launch (see “Picassos and Pez Dispensers? Sotheby’s and eBay Team Up (Again)“). For now, the initial auction house participants include Swann Auction Galleries, Doyle New York and Freeman’s, among others, with prices expected to range from a few thousand to more than $100,000.

“Through the launch of live auctions, eBay is reimagining the time-honored auction house experience,” said Gene Cook, general manager of emerging verticals for eBay Marketplaces, in a press release. “We know that people want new ways to peruse and purchase fine art and collectibles, and eBay’s live auctions…. deliver on this at a variety of price points.”

Way back in 1999, eBay tried and failed to expand into live auctions with a model called “Great Collections”. It failed. The e-business is betting that online shopping habits have evolved since then, as evidenced by the success of high-end shopping sites such as Gilt, where customers purchase luxury products unseen.

Swann will inaugurate the new platform on October 9 at 2:30 p.m with its African-American Fine Art sale.

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