Laura Paulson, Longtime Auction Rainmaker, Has Left Christie’s After 28 Years

Her move comes at a moment of change in the auction business.

Laura Paulson with Larry Gagosian at the 2016 Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

The veteran auction-house executive Laura Paulson has left Christie’s, where she has worked since 1989, artnet News has learned. She will now serve as an independent art advisor, according to the auction house.

Paulson, who most recently served as global chairman of 20th-century art, is one of Christie’s longest-serving executives and among the most experienced women in the auction business. Christie’s confirmed that her last day was November 17—immediately after the auction house’s record-setting November sales. Her departure was not publicly announced at the time.

“Going forward, she will be acting independently of Christie’s as she establishes herself in an art advisory role in the art market,” a spokeswoman for the auction house told artnet News in a statement. “Christie’s thanks Laura for all her contributions and commitment over the years, and wish her well in her new endeavor.”

Paulson declined to comment on her departure, her next chapter, or the reasons for the split with her longtime employer. But her move comes at a moment of change in the auction business, which has increasingly felt like a game of musical chairs.

Last year, another longtime Christie’s executive, Brett Gorvy, left the auction house after 23 years to join forces with the dealer Dominque Lévy. In 2014, Amy Cappellazzo departed to launch Art Agency, Partners with Allan Schwartzman; the firm has since been acquired by Sotheby’s.

In recent months, Paulson appeared to have been pushed to the sidelines amid a change in leadership in Christie’s contemporary art department. In July, the auction house announced that she would transition into a less central role as vice chairman of Christie’s Americas advisory board and senior advisor for Christie’s come January. (That is no longer the case.)

Meanwhile, Christie’s contemporary art department has increasingly become the province of Loïc Gouzer and Alex Rotter, who joined Christie’s from Sotheby’s in March. The chummy, freewheeling young guns were the driving force behind the decision to offer Leonardo da Vinci’s record-setting Salvator Mundi in its contemporary art sale, as well as other nontraditional moves.

In the course of her long career, Paulson has secured many record-setting sales of her own. She oversaw the $174.9 million sale of the collection of David Pincus in 2012, the highest total for any private collection in the postwar category at the time. She has also sold high-profile works from the collection of Ileana Sonnabend, the estate of Nina Castelli Sundell, and the Cy Twombly Foundation.

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