Sotheby’s Europe Names Oliver Barker and Mario Tavella as Co-Chairmen

The top auction house is rethinking its global strategy.

Oliver Barker, co-chairmen of Sotheby's Europe.
Photo: Courtesy Sotheby’s.

The changes to Sotheby’s organizational chart keep pouring in, but this time, the structural shifts involve two new appointments rather than additional departures.

Oliver Barker and Mario Tavella have been appointed as European co-chairmen of the company, joining Philipp Württemberg, who has been serving as chairman in Europe since 2011.

The announcement follows the recent departures this past February of Henry Wyndham, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, and Melanie Clore, European chairman and worldwide co-chairman of impressionist and modern art.

“We are thrilled to see our highly-regarded colleagues Oliver and Mario step into their new roles as chairmen. Both are great experts with a keen interest in many fields other than their own specialist areas, and both have already made huge contributions to the company’s worldwide efforts,” Maarten ten Holder, Sotheby’s managing director for Europe, said in a statement.

The new European chairmen are indeed company veterans. Tavella, president and general director of Sotheby’s France, joined Sotheby’s in 1991, while Barker, a senior international specialist in contemporary art, joined Sotheby’s in 1994.

According to a release from the auction house, Barker and Tavella are also joining its newly-instituted European Strategy Board, co-chaired by Württemberg and Robin Woodhead, chairman of Sotheby’s International.

The board, which will also include nine other specialists from the company, will be tasked with devising a new growth strategy across Europe, the Middle East, India, and Africa.

Mario Tavella, co-chairmen of Sotheby's Europe.<br>Photo: Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Mario Tavella, co-chairmen of Sotheby’s Europe.
Photo: Courtesy Sotheby’s.

The appointments come at a tumultuous moment for the reputed auction house at large, which has recently seen a string of departures of high-profile veterans, but also new hires and promotions. Top staffers who have left the company in recent months also include David Norman, vice chairman of Sotheby’s Americas; Warren Weitman, chairman for North and South America; and Cheyenne Westphal, head of contemporary art worldwide.

Despite the current rocky situation, experts consulted recently by artnet News reckoned the auction house will overcome its difficulties in due course. “For the right people, this is an opportunity,” New York art advisor Wendy Cromwell told artnet News. “Auctions are a necessity. They’ll rebuild strategically and the ship will right itself.”

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