As Shakeups Continue at Sotheby’s, Auction Veteran Amy Cappellazzo Has Been Named Head of an Expanded Global Fine Arts Division

The move comes as Sotheby's new CEO Charles Stewart reorganizes the company.

Amy Cappellazzo in 2016. ©Patrick McMullan. Photo by Sean Zanni/PMC.

Sotheby’s new owner Patrick Drahi has wasted no time making his mark on the 275-year-old auction house since he acquired it for $3.7 billion this past fall. The latest change involves expanding the purview of auction veteran Amy Cappellazzo, who joined the company in 2016.

Following an internal reorganization, Cappellazzo has been named head of an expanded global fine arts division, which now encompasses private sales, Old Masters, 19th-century art, European art, prints, and photographs. The move marks a significant expansion of her role, considering her previous focus has largely been on postwar and contemporary art.

It’s been a turbulent few months at the auction house. In October, Drahi replaced CEO Tad Smith with Charles Stewart, a longtime executive from Drahi’s telecom company Altice, and two weeks ago came news that around a dozen other seasoned executives were out, both by firing and voluntary buyouts, as well as other support staff.

In an email to employees last week, Stewart announced that Cappellazzo’s promotion came alongside plans to reorganize the company into two global divisions: “fine arts” and “luxury, art, and objects.” In leading the fine arts division, Cappellazzo, Stewart added, “will rely on the continued outstanding leadership and best practices of our Chairman and Vice Chairman, among many others in the division.”

Cappellazzo was formerly worldwide co-head of the contemporary and postwar art department at Christie’s before leaving to launch the advisory firm Art Agency, Partners with advisor Allan Schwartzman in 2014. Two years later, Sotheby’s, under the leadership of CEO Tad Smith, acquired the firm for a hefty $50 million, plus additional performance incentives of up to $35 million.

A view outside Sotheby's in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

A view outside of Sotheby’s in New York City. Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images.

While some executives have been pushed out since the acquisition, including former AAP partner and Sotheby’s COO Adam Chinn, Cappellazzo seems to have thrived at Sotheby’s, even as the company experienced a wave of staff turnover following her arrival.

The changes are likely to keep coming. Stewart’s memo added that the newly formed luxury division will include jewelry, watches, wine, 20th-century design, Asian art, books, and decorative arts. The decision to move Asian art—a robust category that includes ancient and classical paintings, ceramics, and furniture—into the luxury division may leave some experts scratching their heads.

Charles F. Stewart has been appointed CEO at Sotheby's, replacing Tad Smith. Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

“[T]he categories in this division have a major opportunity to further develop new sales channels, including marketplace, e-commerce, and even retail—putting us on a path for future growth,” Stewart wrote. He added that leadership of the luxury division would be announced soon and that, in the interim, department heads will report to him.

Meanwhile, Stewart has named Stefan Pepe, a digital consumer expert, to head a new product and technology unit. And Sebastian Fahey, who is managing director of business for Asia will move from Hong Kong to London in 2020 to take on the role of managing director of Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and India. He will report to Stewart.

Stewart said he realizes that there will be many questions about these changes and that he and other executives are still working to define certain roles. “We will communicate further about the divisions in the days and weeks ahead,” he wrote, “which will provide greater insight and clarity.”

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