New York’s 5 Fresh Faces of Auctioneering
The scoop on the guys with the gavels, and how they got them.
New York’s key spring art auctions begin this week, and it’s no secret that there’s a lot on the line for many people, including those holding the gavels. Over the course of many years, the distinct styles honed by Simon de Pury at Phillips, Christopher Burge at Christie’s, and Tobias Meyer at Sotheby’s became as much a part of each auction season as the multi-million dollar Monets, Picassos and Warhols they presided over. With their respective departures, the pressure’s on. Curious who will be running the sales at the big three auction houses? Read on for the scoop on the men behind the podiums and how they got there.
Phillips Contemporary Sale, May 15: Alexander Gilkes
Prior to co-founding online auction house Paddle8, Gilkes was director of Marketing as well as an auctioneer at Phillips, so he will be in familiar territory. The protege of Simon de Pury, Gilkes is known in the international art world for his dapper fashion sensibilities and famous friends (which include the Middleton sisters and Princess Eugenie of York). Despite the fact that Gilkes is considerably younger than many other auctioneers, he has had de Pury’s seal of approval for quite a while: “I’d never seen anybody who was absolutely masterly from the first. There was not a single thing I thought he should do differently.”
Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary, May 13: Jussi Pylkkanen
Christie’s president of Europe and the Middle East, Pylkkanen may be the most familiar face on this list for those in the know. In November 2013, he auctioned off a record-breaking $691 million in postwar and contemporary art in a single sale. Pylkkanen has said that he intuitively knows who in the room is going to bid: “It’s about the posture of the client, how they sit forward on the chair, how they make eye contact with you. As I look up, I know the four or five people that are definitely going to bid.”
Christie’s Impressionist and Modern, May 6: Andreas Rumbler
Rumbler is the Chairman of Christie’s Switzerland, and has run a smattering of New York auctions in the past few years. He headed a disappointing sale in November 2013, in which a number of high-profile and high-estimate pieces failed to sell, preceded by a a similar sale in 2012. In 2006, he and a colleague were credited with discovering the Egon Schiele painting Herbstsonne in France, which was previously thought to be lost.
Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Sale, May 7: Henry Wyndham
Wyndham has been with the auction house since 1994, when he joined as Chairman of Sotheby’s United Kingdom. In 2012, he was accidentally shot in the face on the first day of the grouse shooting season, and though he was injured, he was fortunate that his glasses protected him from being blinded by the bullet. Since the accident, he has raised millions for Orbis, a charity dedicated to preserving and restoring sight in developing countries.
Sotheby’s Contemporary Sale, May 14: Oliver Barker
Barker also joined Sotheby’s in 1994, as deputy head of the European Impressionist & Modern Art department in London, before moving to the European Contemporary Art Department in 2001. Considered pivotal in the significant rise in value in Contemporary British art, Barker has taken responsibility for the marquee evening sales of contemporary art in New York and London in the wake of Tobias Meyer’s departure. He is also known for running the buzzed-about (RED) auction at Sotheby’s in November, 2013.
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