Auction Rainmaker Francis Outred, Who Brought a ‘Masterpiece Mentality’ to Christie’s, Resigns as Postwar and Contemporary Head

He spent a decade at the helm of the department in Europe.

Francis Outred. Image courtesy of Christie's.

The shuffling of the ranks at the world’s top auction houses continues. The latest to depart is Francis Outred, Christie’s head of postwar and contemporary art in Europe, who has worked at the auction house for almost a decade. Unlike other recent high-profile departures, however, Outred is not jumping ship for another auction house, a private dealership, or blue-chip gallery. At least, not yet.

Outred joined Christie’s from Sotheby’s in 2009. In an interview about his departure with The Art Newspaper, he said he has “no immediate plans” and is taking time to consider his offers before making his next move. He resigned a few months ago, over the summer, but agreed to stay on through last week’s marathon of New York fall auctions. Outred, who was actively bidding on behalf of clients in the Rockefeller Center salesroom last week, told TAN his resignation was the “best kept secret at Christie’s, ever.”

No replacement for his position—which was, officially, chairman and head of postwar and contemporary art for Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and India—has been announced. Outred said he was motivated to pause and take more time with his wife and three children after the recent death of his father-in-law. Of his next role in the art world, he said: “The job is too intense to consider other things, which is why I need time off to think about what I want to do next.”

Outred’s career at Christie’s coincided with the art market’s boom, and he played an integral role in some of the past decade’s biggest-ticket sales. The trophy consignments he won for Christie’s include Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969), which sold for $142 million in 2013 to Elaine Wynn, the ex-wife of disgraced casino mogul and collector Steve Wynn. For a while, it held the distinction of being the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, though it has since been eclipsed by nine-figure sales of works by Picasso, Modigliani, and Leonardo da Vinci.

One of the hallmarks of Outred’s tenure was establishing what he described to The Art Newspaper as a “masterpiece mentality.” He and his team eschewed “client research” to cultivate buyers and instead focused on “object research” to locate and find exceptional works of art and then convince their owners to part with them.

Outred is one of a number of auction house executives to announce his departure in recent months. Hauser & Wirth recently hired Christie’s veterans Koji Inoue and Liberté Nuti, while Philipp von Württemberg, the managing director of Sotheby’s Germany, left after more than 20 years with the company.

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