Three Top Christie’s Executives Leave Amid Market Instability

It's unclear whether these were dismissals or walkouts.

Christie's New York, at Rockefeller Center.

It’s been an eventful couple of years at the major auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s: both have recently been going through major changes under new management, trying to figure out how to maximize profitability amid a pullback in the global art market.

After seeing a series of departures at Sotheby’s, there could be some major shifts underway at Christie’s. The New York Times reports that three leading executives have departed from the privately owned auction house, although it is unclear whether they were dismissed or have walked out independently.

Paul R. Provost, the senior vice president and director of trusts, estates & appraisals; Nicholas Hall, international head of old master paintings and 19th century art; and Cathy Elkies, head of Christie’s 20th and 21st century design have all left Christie’s. Neither responded to the NYT’s request for comment on the details of their departures.

On July 20, Christie’s released a report that revealed a deep drop in sales for the first half of 2016. Sales for the period totaled $3 billion (£2.1 billion), a 33 percent drop in US dollar terms and a 27 percent drop in British pounds. The comparable figure for the same period in 2015 was $4.5 billion (£2.9 billion).

This past April, in an attempt to increase efficiency amid pressured profit margins and intense competition, Christie’s announced plans to close three of its regional offices—in Boston, Palm Beach, and Philadelphia—and clients from those regions will now be served from New York.

But the auction house, owned by French businessman and collector François Pinault, is also gearing up with new hires. In March 2017, Christie’s will welcome Alex Rotter, formerly of Sotheby’s, as its new chairman of post-war and contemporary art for the Americas.

Christie’s did not comment on the details of the three departures, but released a statement instead: “As a private company, we don’t comment on speculation around our employees. However, like any business, we continue to review the deployment of resources and focus investment on areas of growth so as to best to serve our clients.”

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