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David Bennett has been named to the newly-created position of worldwide chairman of international jewelry at Sotheby’s, the auction house announced on March 5.

In the Geneva-based role, Bennett will design and implement a strategy for the continued expansion and development of Sotheby’s global jewelry business, which the auction says is one of its fastest growing categories, achieving $600 million in sales in 2014.

Published in News
Friday, 21 November 2014 13:16

Sotheby’s CEO William F. Ruprecht to Step Down

Sotheby’s today announced that its Board of Directors has begun a search for the Company’s next Chief Executive Officer and that William F. Ruprecht will step down by mutual agreement with the Board. Mr. Ruprecht, who has served as CEO since 2000, will continue as Chairman, President and CEO until his successor is in place to ensure a smooth transition.

The Board has formed a Search Committee to oversee the recruiting of a new CEO and has retained Spencer Stuart, a leading executive search firm, to assist in the process. The Committee is led by Domenico De Sole, Lead Independent Director.

Mr. De Sole said, “The Board is focused on ensuring a smooth transition that will facilitate Sotheby’s continued success. As we move to new leadership, the Board is sharply focused on upholding the world-class standard of excellence that Sotheby’s has long represented to our clients and achieving Sotheby’s full long-term potential for the benefit of our shareholders. We are moving with a sense of urgency but we will take the time we need to find the right leader for Sotheby’s at this critical juncture in its continuing evolution.”

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After a whirlwind of auctions last week in New York, which included a historic $495 million post-war sale at Christie’s, Phillips’ Contemporary Art Evening Sale on May 16, 2013 seemed quite subdued. The boutique auction house’s sale garnered $78.6 million and sold 81% by lot and 88% by value.

The highlight of the night was Andy Warhol’s (1928-1987) Pop Art masterpiece, Four Marilyns (1962), which sold for $38.2 million. The sale confirmed that Warhol remains a powerful presence in the art market. During the auction two other Warhol works were sold -- Flowers (1964), which brought $2.4 million and Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn) (1967), which sold for upward of $2 million. Other major sales that night included Jean-Michel Basquiat’s (1960-1988) Untitled (1961), which garnered over $4 million and Roy Lichtenstein’s (1923-1997) Still Life (1972), which also sold for upward of $4 million.

Phillips has undergone a number of changes in the past year. Following the departure of Chairman Simon de Pury in December 2012, the company changed its name from Phillips de Pury & Co. to Phillips. In February 2013, the auction house revealed 10,000-square-feet of new gallery space at the company’s headquarters on Park Avenue in Manhattan. The expansion was an attempt to compete with the major auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

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In an effort to curb the massive debts accrued by the American Folk Art Museum’s former chairman, Ralph Esmerian, the institution has decided to sell over 200 works from its collection at an auction at Sotheby’s. Esmerian, the former owner of the jewelry company Fred Leighton, is currently serving a six-year jail sentence for wire fraud and other charges.

In 2005, Esmerian promised to donate 263 works from his illustrious collection to the Folk Art Museum. However, he used some of those same works as collateral to secure multi-million-dollar loans with Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Late last month, Manhattan’s U.S. Bankruptcy Court arranged a settlement with the museum allowing the Folk Art Museum to keep 53 of the promised works as long as they enhance the institution’s collection and aid its educational mission. The remaining works, which include paintings, sculptures, scrimshaw, and needleworks, will be sold at Sotheby’s.

The trustee responsible for liquidating Esmerian’s estate has decided to sell the remainder of the collection through Sotheby’s, much to Christie’s dismay. Christie’s filed an objection to the settlement on March 15, 2013 claiming that Sotheby’s intimidated the trustee into choosing them to host the important auction.

The Esmerian sale will be held in December 2013 or January 2014 and the profits will go towards repaying the creditors the former chairman defrauded.    

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Marguerite Steed Hoffman, a current trustee and former chairman of the Dallas Museum of Art, has donated $17 million to the institution to create the Marguerite and Robert Hoffman Fund for European Art Before 1700. Hoffman specified that $13.6 million is to be used for acquisitions and the remaining $3.4 million is allotted for exhibitions and planning. Hoffman’s generous gift is one of the country’s largest geared towards the purchase and care of Old Master works.

While the Dallas Museum of Art has a substantial collection of late 19th and early 20th century works, its Old Master holdings are lacking. Hoffman’s donation will help expand its European Renaissance and Baroque collections; her gift also more than doubles the museum’s acquisition endowment.

Hoffman created the fund in honor of her late husband, Robert, who died in 2006. The two were important benefactors of the museum for years and participated in an important gift of modern and contemporary art that took place in 2005. The gift was part of a campaign that helped raise over $185 million for the museum.

Published in News
Friday, 22 February 2013 14:50

Historic Agnew’s Gallery to Sell Archive

London’s historic Agnew’s Gallery, which announced earlier this month that they will be closing after nearly 200 years in business, plans to sell off its extensive library and archive after its doors shut on April 30, 2013. The remarkable archive is considered one of the most important and complete records of art market dealings to take place over the past two centuries. While Agnew’s specializes in Old Master paintings, the gallery has dealt in everything from Rembrandt (1606-1669) masterpieces to modern canvases by Francis Bacon (1909-1992).

The archive contains stock legers, which are extremely important to provenance research related to the gallery’s areas of expertise. There has been some speculation that the Getty Institute in Los Angeles will bid on the archive as they run a significant provenance research center. However, it is likely that officials will want to keep the archive in the UK.

The gallery’s chairman, Julian Agnew, will continue to work as an advisor to clients and plans to keep the company’s family name.  

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The London gallery Agnews announced that it will be closing its doors on April 30, 2013 after nearly 200 years in business. One of the world’s oldest art dealers, Agnews, which specializes in Old Master paintings, will make a final appearance at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht (March 15- 24, 2013).

Business for Agnews has been cooling off since chairman, Julian Agnew, sold the gallery’s historic Bond street location for a reported $39 and moved to a smaller space. Agnew attempted to sell the business last year, but negotiations with a prospective buyer failed. The privately owned firm, which has 16 family shareholders, revealed a loss of almost $3 million in records dating back to 2011.

Agnews has been selling off its stock, which once included Old Master works by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), and Rembrandt (1606-1669) as well as watercolors and British paintings. Whatever is left in the gallery will be taken care of in due time. Agnew will continue to work as an advisor to clients and will keep the company’s family name.

Published in News
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 13:13

Folk Art Museum to Relinquish Promised Artworks

When Ralph Esmerian, owner of the jewelry company Fred Leighton, filed for bankruptcy and was sentenced to six years in jail for fraud in 2011, the American Folk Art Museum felt the repercussions. Esmerian, a prominent donor and former chairman of the institution, had promised the museum 263 works from his illustrious collection. Since Esmerian’s downfall, the museum has been working with a trustee of the case to reach an agreement, which was recently realized.

The settlement between the Folk Art Museum and Esmerian states that the institution is entitled to 53 of the artworks he promised to donate. While the chosen pieces are yet to be specified to the public, they were selected for their exceptional quality and include portraits, needleworks, fraktur, sculpture, pottery, and scrimshaw. The retained works will enhance the museum’s collection and aid its educational mission.

The Folk Art Museum will be forced to part with the other 210 promised works, which will most likely be sold at auction in an effort to settle other bankruptcy estate claims.

Published in News
Monday, 24 December 2012 11:15

Simon de Pury Leaves Phillips de Pury & Company

On December 23, Swiss auctioneer and art collector, Simon de Pury, stepped down as Chairman of the New York-based auction house, Phillips de Pury & Company. The announcement was a shock to many as de Pury has helmed the business for the past twelve years. The Russian firm, Mercury Group, recently completed the acquisition of de Pury’s remaining shares in the company.

Phillips’ CEO, Michael McGinnis, said, “Simon has served as a tireless ambassador for the Company and a compelling presence at the podium. We thank him for his spirited enthusiasm, leadership and dedication.”  

Beginning in the New Year, the auction house will revert to its original name, Phillips, from its founding in 1796. The company, which specializes in contemporary art and design, has operated under the name Phillips de Pury and Company for the past eight years. In addition, starting in February 2013, the auction house will begin the expansion of its Manhattan headquarters on Park Avenue, adding more gallery and office space.

Published in News
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 10:30

Chairman of the NEA Announces That He Will Step Down

The National Endowment for the Arts announced today that its current chair, Rocco Landesman, will step down after three years in the position. Landesman, who recently turned 65, plans to retire to Miami Beach at the end of year.

Landesman was a top Broadway producer when Barack Obama nominated him to head the NEA in May 2009. A Tony Award winner, Landesman is best known for producing Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” as well as for his revivals of “Guys and Dolls,” “Sweeney Todd,” and “Death of a Salesman.”

The NEA, a federal agency that supports and funds the arts, has appointed the current Senior Deputy Chairman, Joan Shigekawa, as the interim chairman for the new year while the NEA looks for a permanent successor.

Landesman said in a statement released by the NEA, “My intention has always been to serve one time, and we have been able to accomplish more than I had ever thought possible…we have continued to support and strength the entire spectrum of arts in this country, and we have been able to expand the national conversation through convenings, traditional media, and new technology.”

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