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Art shop, auction house unite online

Sotheby's is building a network

of dealers for its Internet auctions that will include Hess Fine Art on Fourth Street.

Hess Fine Art on Fourth Street is a charter member of a dealer network that Sotheby's, the world-renowned auction house, is building for its Internet auctions.

Jeffrey P. Hess, owner of the art shop, said he had been dealing with Sotheby's for about 20 years and considers the invitation to join the Internet auction network an honor.

"The Sotheby's connection, even though we have been in business for 15 years, has really helped us," Hess, 48, said in a telephone interview Thursday. "It has given us a lot of attention. It has given us a lot of business."

Hess is taking items for consignment even though Sotheby's auction site won't be online until later this year. Among the prospects for the Internet auction is equipment belonging to golfer Joe Kirkwood, the famous trick shot artist born in Australia in 1897.

Hess said sellers should appreciate the more immediate payment in the online process and the fact that a treasured antique or piece of art does not have to leave the seller's home. Hess Fine Art will come to the owner and photograph the item to put on the Internet. The shop already sells on eBay so it is familiar with the Internet auction process.

Sotheby's plans to sign up approximately 3,200 dealers around the world, according to spokesman Matthew Weigman. It is choosing "people we've done business with before."

Dealers will put up items from their area of expertise _ in the case of Hess, antique jewelry _ and their geographical area for auction online. They get a percentage of sales.

In return, Sotheby's produces, markets and advertises its site, which will have an education component to give users a chance to learn about arts and antiques. The international network will give buyers and sellers greater access to more items, Sotheby's said.