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Sotheby’s shakes up senior level staff in Asia and Europe

Sotheby’s today announced a number of senior level promotions and other title changes in Europe and Asia. Chiefly, it has tapped Elaine Holt as both its chairman of Modern and contemporary art and the deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, starting from July.

Holt, a native Hong Kong dealer-turned-auction specialist and adviser, is a well-known figure in the Asian art world and has been active in the city’s art market since the 1990s. She takes over from Alex Branczik and Max Moore, who came in 2021 from London and New York respectively to co-direct Sotheby’s Asia. Holt’s appointment comes ahead of the auction house launching its new 2,230 sq. m headquarters in Central Hong Kong’s Landmark Chater Building in July.

“It was always the plan to have someone from Asia leading the Modern and contemporary art team,” says Sebastian Fahey, Sotheby’s managing director of global fine art. “Alex and Max have completed their tenure in Asia but will remain working closely with the company’s expansive regional team here, such as Elaine, to continue to develop these categories globally.”

Team integration and leading a new chapter in Landmark Chater will be Holt’s initial focus, Fahey says. She also faces a challenging market, as China continues to navigate a property sector crisis and a wider economic slump.

An expert in Asian contemporary art, Holt worked at Christie’s Hong Kong between 2013 and 2023, helping to expand its Impressionist and Modern art department. She previously worked at Opera gallery and the Hong Kong office of the Taiwanese auction house Ravenel.

Holt will be joined by two new senior contemporary art specialists: Joseph Yang, who co-led Poly Auctions’ Modern and contemporary art operations in Asia and Boris Cornelissen, who returns to Sotheby’s after four years running his own gallery in Australia.

Branczik and Moore led the auction house through a tumultuous time for Hong Kong, including national security crackdowns and three years of essentially closed borders under China’s zero Covid policy. Fahey says the duo in that time “brought masterpieces from Western artists to regional audience, including Jean Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (Red Warrior) (1982), Alberto Giacometti’s Petit buste sur colonne (1951-52) and Louise Bourgeois’s 1996 bronze Spider IV, which became the most valuable sculpture ever offered in Asia”.

Branczik will return to London as Sotheby’s Europe’s chairman and head of Modern and contemporary art, where “he will oversee much activity for global fine art in Europe”, according to a statement. Moore will return to New York this October in his new role as head of Sotheby’s sealed and senior private sales and specialist for Modern and contemporary art.

Branczik and Moore are not the only senior Sotheby’s staff members to receive title changes this week. Helena Newman will become the chairman of Impressionist and Modern art worldwide, “focusing on steering business growth”. She will continue in her role as European chairman. James Sevier will transition into a “senior business-getting role” as deputy chairman, contemporary art, Europe, “to work more closely with his portfolio of major clients”. Michael Macaulay will now assume the position of deputy chairman, head of contemporary art, Europe. And André Zlattinger becomes deputy chairman, head of Modern art, Europe. He returned to Sotheby’s last year, after 12 years at Christie’s.

These shifts come as the auction house prepares to make dozens of redundancies across its locations, as The Art Newspaper revealed earlier this month.

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