One of the biggest auctioneers of luxury goods is teaming up with one of the world's largest online sellers to bring art auctions to the digital masses around the world, including Canada.

Sotheby's and eBay announced a deal Monday that will make some of the famous auction house's art, antiques and collectibles available on the online retailing website so more people can bid on them.

The first phase of the plan, to be rolled out in the fall, will allow eBay's 145 million customers worldwide to participate in real-time auctions happening in Sotheby's New York offices. The system will allow live, real-time bidding on artifacts in 18 different categories.

Growing market

Customers in every country where eBay operates, including Canada, can participate, a spokesman for Sotheby's told CBC News.

"The growth of the art market, new generation technology and our shared strengths make this the right time for this exciting new online opportunity,” Sotheby's COO Bruno Vinciguerra said in a release. "We are joining with eBay to make our sales more accessible to the broadest possible audience around the world."

Online bidding already plays a large role in Sotheby's auctions, with online bidders already competing in 17 per cent of the lots the company sold at auction last year — an increase of more than a third from the previous year.

Indeed, the company saw a watershed moment in April when John James Audubon’s elephant-folio The Birds of America sold in for $3.5 million US — a new record for an online purchase in a Sotheby's auction.

Just as Sotheby's is seeing more activity online, so too is eBay evolving into the higher end of the market. Every day, the company closes more than 3,500 auctions for items priced at more than $5,000. And collectibles such as art accounted for nearly $8 billion of revenue in 2013, with 36 million active buyers.

Although Sotheby's is more known for its multi-million dollar auctions, more than half of the items the company sells go for between $5,000 and $100,000.