Sotheby’s has announced that Tad Smith has been appointed as President and CEO, replacing William Ruprecht who resigned in November. Smith, who is 49, was formerly president and CEO of the Madison Square Garden Company. Chosen on the strength of his experience with brands and brand strategy rather than with auction houses, he told the media that he plans to implement a five-year plan for the company, which will include an accelerated adoption of new technologies.
This aspect was in evidence today, when eBay launched a new section of its website, www.ebay.com/sothebys that is dedicated to streaming live auctions at Sotheby’s, seven months after the partnership was first announced. The modern and contemporary art sale will be streamed live from their New York saleroom on April 1. Lots are currently available to view online and bids can be placed in advance. Offering a live-auction experience, where a video will allow viewers to participate in the sales, also signals a new direction for eBay.
A mutual desire to expand their customer base lies behind the collaboration. “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, quoted on eBay’s website. “We are joining with eBay to make our sales more accessible to the broadest possible audience around the world.”
Buying art and antiques online is becoming increasingly popular, particularly with regards to the middle market – work valued at between $1,000 and $50,000. Online sales are estimated to have totaled $3.5bn in 2014, equivalent to around 6% of global sales that year.
The partnership will initially focus on Sotheby’s New York sales, with plans to expand to their international branches in the future.