Christie’s Names Guillaume Cerutti as CEO Replacing Barbizet

  • Billionaire owner Francois Pinault to become chairman of board
  • Barbizet steps down after two years as art market contracts

Christie’s, the world’s leading auction house by sales, appointed Guillaume Cerutti as chief executive officer, replacing its top leader after just two years and in a volatile period for the global art market.

Cerutti, 50, joined Christie’s in September as president of Europe, Middle East, Russia and India operations after spending almost a decade at rival Sotheby’s. He will take over on Jan. 1, the London-based company said in a statement Wednesday. He succeeds Patricia Barbizet, who was named CEO in 2014 and will become vice chairman.

Guillaume Cerutti

Source: Christie’s

Christie’s, controlled by billionaire Francois Pinault, is making the change a week after its top dealmaker, Brett Gorvy, said he would leave his post after two decades. Sales of art and collectibles at the auctioneer declined in 2015 and in the first half of 2016 as the art market has contracted.

There’s “a very strong demand for art coming from all over the world but the more challenging situation is on the supply side,” Cerutti said in a telephone interview. “The main challenge is to convince the sellers that Christie’s is the best place for them to sell."

As part of the changes, Pinault will become chairman of the board.

"Two years ago I asked Patricia to take the helm of Christie’s and adapt the organisation to the new challenges of the art industry and market," Pinault said in the statement. "She has led the company to a point where it is appropriate to pass the baton to Guillaume Cerutti. It will now be for him to push this advantage even further."

Cerutti was managing director of the Centre Georges Pompidou for five years. He became head of Sotheby’s France in September 2007 and was appointed deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Europe four years later. He left Sotheby’s in 2015, officially joining Christie’s in September after his non-compete agreement ended, Christie’s said.

Barbizet will take the role of vice chairman. “It’s a sign of his blessing and support,” Barbizet said in an interview, describing Christie’s as a "trophy asset" of Pinault’s holding company, Artemis.

Cerutti will be based in London, making monthly trips to New York and regular visits to Asia, he said.

Signalling that he’ll be a hands-on kind of CEO, he said he most enjoys “working directly with the team, the experts,” as well as making sales pitches and convincing clients. “I will focus on this. We’ll concentrate on the basics,” he said.

“He is an amazing guy,” said Alex Rotter, a former co-head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s who is starting at Christie’s as chairman of the postwar and contemporary department in the Americas on March 1. “One of the smartest and most fearless people I met at Sotheby’s.”

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