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Sotheby's plans live auction bidding via eBay

NEW YORK, July 14 (Reuters) - Sotheby's and eBay announced a partnership on Monday to make it easier to buy antiques, collectibles and works of fine art online.

The international auction house and the online marketplace plan to broadcast live auctions from the New York headquarters of Sotheby's that will include real-time bidding from anywhere in the world.

Auctions from other locations could follow.

The deal will connect Sotheby's, with its extensive inventory of fine art, antiques, books, jewels, watches and furniture, with eBay's 145 million active buyers around the world.

"We are joining with eBay to make our sales more accessible to the broadest possible audience around the world," Bruno Vinciguerra, Sotheby's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

The timing of the venture comes as the value of individual sales has escalated to record highs. Francis Bacon's triptych painting "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" sold for $142.4 million last November in New York, the highest price ever for an item sold at auction.

Total sales in the global art and antiques market rose 8 percent to $65.9 billion last year, the highest level since 2007, with Asian buyers playing an increasingly important role, according to the European Fine Art Foundation's annual report.

Online sales could grow at a rate of at least 25 percent per year after accounting for around 5 percent of sales in 2013, the foundation said.

Sotheby's said online bidders competed for 17 percent of the total lots it offered in 2013 while the number of lots purchased online jumped 36 percent compared to 2012.

John James Audubon's book "The Birds of America," which fetched $3.5 million, set the record for an online purchase in a live auction at Sotheby's in April.

For eBay, the deal with Sotheby's is a chance to expand into the live auction market.

"When we 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," said Devin Wenig, the president of eBay Marketplaces.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)