Christie’s Top Dealmaker Gorvy Leaves to Join Dominique Levy

  • Gorvy led postwar and contemporary art department since 2000
  • Exit comes as rival Sotheby’s is revamping under CEO Tad Smith

Brett Gorvy, Christie’s chairman and global head of postwar and contemporary art and one of the art market’s most powerful dealmakers, is leaving after two decades to join forces with dealer Dominique Levy.

The new partnership will be known as Levy Gorvy, according to a spokeswoman for the gallery. Gorvy will begin on Jan. 2. In addition to its ongoing exhibitions and programs, the entity will include an international advisory service for collectors and estates. He will also be a consultant to the auction house, Christie’s said Wednesday in a statement.

Brett Gorvy and Dominique Levy

Photographer: Chad Batka via Andrea Schwan Inc.

Gorvy, 52, led Christie’s department through a period of unprecedented growth in contemporary art, winning consignments that often led to record prices for works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons and Lucian Freud. Last month, Christie’s sold a painting by Willem de Kooning for record $66.3 million.

“Brett Gorvy is Christie’s,’’ said Sandy Heller, a New York-based art consultant to some of the world’s top collectors. “He truly stands alone as far as auction specialists go. He is an absolute connoisseur who is tireless and fully consumed and obsessed by art and the art market.’’

The departure is a blow to Christie’s, the world’s biggest auction house by sales, as the art market contracts and rival Sotheby’s steps up competition under Chief Executive Officer Tad Smith. It also caps a tumultuous period for both firms, which have seen specialists and executives depart, often for the competition.

Biggest Department

Born in South Africa, Gorvy started at Christie’s in 1994, presiding over the postwar and contemporary art department as it became the company’s largest, surpassing Impressionist and modern art. While Christie’s won market share in contemporary art, it came at a price as the company gave up profit on major deals and issued risky guarantees to win trophy artworks. Christie’s lost millions of dollars on guaranteed lots and sales have fallen.

Gorvy declined to comment on his exit.

Christie’s sales of art and collectibles last year declined 5.9 percent to 4.8 billion pounds in 2015. Postwar and contemporary auctions slid 14 percent to 1.5 billion pounds. In November, the company’s auction of contemporary art tallied $277 million, a 17 percent decline from a year ago.

Personnel turnover has intensified at the major auction houses in the past year. Marc Porter, former chairman of Christie’s Americas, will start at Sotheby’s in January. Alex Rotter, Sotheby’s former co-head of contemporary art, is moving to Christie’s in 2017. Many specialists from the world’s two biggest auction houses are joining Phillips, a boutique auction firm led by Ed Dolman. Christie’s former CEO. Amy Cappellazzo, Gorvy’s former co-head of postwar and contemporary art, is now Sotheby’s co-chairman of global fine art division.

Dominique Levy Gallery currently operates in New York and London. Christie’s is owned by French billionaire Francois Pinault.

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