Why Is Veteran Marc Porter Back at Christie’s After Less Than 3 Months at Sotheby’s?

The auction world's game of musical chairs continues at an unprecedented pace.

Marc Porter, chairman of Christie's Americas. Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd. August 4, 2011

The ongoing game of musical chairs among auction house executives at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips continues. It was announced today that Marc Porter, a 25-year Christie’s veteran, has returned after less than three months at rival Sotheby’s.

Porter left Christie’s in December 2015 and, after a year spent sitting out his non-compete, was named chairman of Sotheby’s fine art division this past January.  As artnet News reported at the time, Porter joined “fellow chairs Allan Schwartzman and Amy Cappellazzo at the helm of the auction house’s specialist departments and advisory businesses.” He was also slated to lead Sotheby’s global business development strategy.

In a statement emailed to artnet News this morning, and coinciding with Christie’s grand opening of its new Los Angeles headquarters, the auction house announced that Porter has returned to his former employer as chairman, Americas, reporting to CEO Guillaume Cerutti.

“I deeply admire Tad Smith, the CEO [of Sotheby’s], and appreciate the opportunity to have spent a short three months working with him,” Porter told artnet News via email. “I discovered many counterparts at Sotheby’s that embody the reasons so many of us choose this extraordinary art business for our careers—in auction houses, galleries, museums and journalism. I also want to note that Amy Cappellazzo, a close friend of two decades, was as much a delight to work with as she was during our decade together at Christie’s.”

Porter will have the same title he previously held, although a Christie’s spokesperson notes that the art market and the auction house itself have changed significantly in the year and a half since his departure. He will continue to focus on private sales and lead Christie’s expanding Americas client and business development activities. He will also serve as a member of the company’s executive management group, which marks an expansion of his previous responsibilities at the auction house.

To say Porter’s arrangement with Sotheby’s was short-lived is an understatement. Tad Smith, who was formerly CEO of MSG Entertainment, was appointed CEO of the 273-year-old auction house in March 2015 and has been shaking things up there ever since.

Many in the art world were taken aback in early 2016 when it was announced that Sotheby’s had shelled out a hefty $50 million—plus additional performance incentive costs of up to $35 million—to acquire Art Agency Partners, the private consulting firm founded in 2014 by ex-Christie’s contemporary head Cappellazzo and art advisor Allan Schwartzman. Since then, Sotheby’s has been in expansion mode: last fall, it acquired art indices company Mei Moses, and, in December, it bought forensic art analyst James Martin’s research company Orion Analytical.

In a statement accompanying Christie’s announcement, Porter says: “I am thrilled to be returning to Christie’s in a new role that allows me to work with clients, mentor colleagues and engage with works of art. Incubating the talents of all people in the organization and working on large strategic projects has long been my primary interest and I now have an opportunity to do that at the highest level in the art field.”

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