On Wednesday, two of the three major auction houses announced changes to the composition of their leadership teams.
Phillips announced that Stephen Brooks would become the company’s next chief executive as its former director, Edward Dolman, took on a new role as chairman of the board. Separately, Sotheby’s said the visual arts director Amy Cappellazzo would leave the company after more than five years to lead it to billionaire clients and big sales. Her duties will be split between three different employees when she leaves the auction house this summer.
Changes in the upper echelons of the auction world show how companies are trying to reposition themselves for growth during the pandemic, said Natasha Degen, chair of art market studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
“This is a moment when in-store sales have plummeted,” said Degen, citing the 26 percent decline in global auction sales last year. “So auction houses spun online quickly. They really got into new categories like NFTs, sneakers, and streetwear. There is also more cooperation between auction houses and luxury brands. “
Earlier this week, Phillips launched a new advisory service designed to help clients find artwork in the primary market, which consists of galleries and artist studios. The initiative showed how auction houses have taken the year to diversify their offerings and penetrate areas of business that were once tightly controlled by art galleries.
“Our ambition is considerable,” said Brooks, who views the advisory service as part of a larger plan to accelerate growth for the auction house. Brooks, 56, and a key board member of Christie’s and its senior management for over 11 years, also plans to expand Phillips’ presence in Asia and the 20th century art market. He added that he would like the company to double the size of its overall business over the next five years.
At Sotheby’s, change means a triumvirate of new positions. Brooke Lampley will oversee auctions and private sales for categories such as old masters and contemporary art. Mari-Claudia Jiménez will lead the company’s global business development activities. and Gregoire Billault is promoted to Chair of Contemporary Art.
“We are trying to position ourselves for the future,” said Charles F. Stewart, Managing Director of Sotheby’s, recognizing the role that Cappellazzo played in increasing sales. “We are in a phase of adjustment, adjustment and transformation.”
Cappellazzo first became known in the 1990s as director of the Rubell Collection in Miami. She later helped set up Art Basel Miami Beach. She started working at Christie’s in 2001 until starting her own consultancy Art Agency, Partners in 2014. Two years later, Sotheby’s acquired the company for $ 85 million and signed a five-year deal that ended in January.
Her tenure at Sotheby’s helped cement her reputation as the rainmaker in the industry. In 2016, she organized an auction of musician David Bowie’s artwork, and a year later oversaw the sale of a $ 110.5 million Basquiat painting. Earlier this year, she also helped secure philanthropist Anne Marion’s $ 150 million collection, which will be auctioned off at Sotheby’s this spring.
“They kind of know when the time is right to leave,” Cappellazzo said in an interview, declining to talk about her next business other than saying it wouldn’t be in direct competition with Sotheby’s. “The real story is what I do next, but first I want this chapter to end.”