Inching Onto Auction-House Turf, Hauser & Wirth Hires Christie’s Veteran to Ramp Up Secondary Market Sales

Liberté Nuti will begin this fall as the gallery's new international senior director of Impressionist and Modern art.

Liberté Nuti (2018) Photo: Nicola Gnesi Studio Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

Powerhouse international gallery Hauser & Wirth is ramping up its secondary market business with the appointment of longtime Christie’s veteran Liberté Nuti as its new international senior director of Impressionist and Modern art. Nuti has worked at Christie’s for more than 20 years, most recently as an international director on the Impressionist and Modern art team. She will be based in London and is due to begin her new role in October.

The announcement may come as something of a surprise to those who associate the gallery with contemporary art stars like Mark Bradford, Sterling Ruby, and Paul McCarthy. But as Hauser & Wirth’s president Iwan Wirth explained to artnet News, the gallery has always used secondary market sales of older art to support its more adventurous contemporary program. Now, it is just ramping things up even more.

“You have a younger, primary market program and traditionally that was supported by more conservative secondary market,” Wirth said. “Obviously that has evolved over the years, but it has always been a source of strength and gives us a lot of independence.” Further, Wirth said, a robust 20th-century program “contextualizes the art of the present, and recontextualizes the art of the past. It works both ways.”

In her new post, Nuti will cultivate relationships with collectors and serve as an advisor to the gallery’s whopping 26 artist estates, including those of Eva Hesse, Arshile Gorky, and Philip Guston. Wirth notes that the gallery’s involvement in secondary market sales has played a large role in expanding its estate business. “Our understanding of the secondary market—of the art trading part—has helped us enormously in this position,” Wirth said.

Nuti, who helped establish Christie’s Modern private sales division, is not the first auction house veteran to be scooped up by Hauser & Wirth. (Vanessa Guo joined the gallery from Christie’s in 2016 and now helps lead its Hong Kong operation.) But her appointment does punctuate a moment in the art market when auction houses and mega-galleries are increasingly encroaching on one another’s turf.

Wirth noted that he sees his company as “an artist-centered gallery that builds collections,” including showing private collections like those of Sylvio Perlstein (on view now through July 27 in Chelsea), Ingvild Goetz (2017), and Reinhard Onnasch (2014). Last month, the family of Italian collectors Giuseppe and Giovanna Panza announced plans to gradually sell more than 100 works of largely postwar American art through the gallery, rather than taking the more traditional route of selling the collection all at once at auction.

In a statement, Nuti said she has always admired Hauser & Wirth’s “pool of artists, and found inspiration in the gallery’s creative spirit and passion for pioneering models for what a contemporary art gallery can do and be.”

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