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Rendering of studioMDA’s Phillips Park Avenue Cube, New York. Image: Phillips.
Rendering of studioMDA’s Phillips Park Avenue Cube, New York. Image: Phillips.

Phillips and Sotheby’s Announce Leadership Changes

Phillips and Sotheby’s, two of the world’s largest art auction houses, have recently announced changes in their top ranks that critics say reflect recent shifts in the art market. At Phillips, longtime Christie’s exec Stephen Brooks will enter as CEO, while outgoing chief Ed Dolman will step into the newly created role of executive chairman. At Sotheby’s, Amy Cappellazzo is departing as the head of the fine arts division after more than five years of reeling in billionaire clients there.

Both changes come as the world of art sales reels from the continuing Covid-19 crisis, which was largely responsible for a 26 percent decline in auction sales globally in 2020 and forced auction houses online. At the same time, the rise of the NFT (nonfungible token) has the potential to provide auction houses with a tremendous new source of income.

“We are trying to position ourselves for the future,” Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart told the New York Times. “We are in a period of adjustment, adaptation, and transformation.”

During her tenure at Sotheby’s, Capellazzo oversaw the auction of David Bowie’s art collection, cannily drove the price of a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat to $110.5 million (“I knew we could make the painting an icon,” she said), and helped the company to overtake Christie’s as the world’s top auction house last year. Capellazzo has not yet revealed her post-Sotheby’s plans, but the house acknowledged that her duties would be split among three employees: Brooke Lampley, Mari-Claudia Jiménez, and Gregoire Billaut.

Phillips in the past week sold its first NFT, Mad Dog Jones’s Replicator, which netted $4.1 million, and launched a new advisory service aimed at pairing clients with artists and galleries. Brooks told the Times he plans to broaden the firm’s mandate in Asia and to become a bigger player in the market for twentieth-century art. “Our ambition,” he told the paper, “is considerable.”