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Second Thoughts: Two High-Profile Hires Depart Sotheby’s Advisory Service

In rapid succession, two ballyhooed recruits to Sotheby’s Fine Art Division (the firm’s art advisory service) have left their posts:

Eric Shiner, whose departure was reported today by Anny Shaw in The Art Newspaper, will be artistic director of the London-based White Cube gallery’s new office in New York. He had come to Sotheby’s from the directorship of the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.

Eric Shiner giving a tour last May to museum professionals attending a Sotheby’s presale exhibition
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Christy MacLear, whose departure was reported by ARTnews last month, came to Sotheby’s from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, where she had been CEO. Her assignment had been to provide Sotheby’s services to artists, their estate trustees and their foundations.

Christy MacLear

Both said they were leaving to work more closely with artists. I’m guessing that one or both may have had concerns over whether their work at Sotheby’s served artists’ (and museums’?) best interests—an issue I raised when MacLear’s appointment was announced in December 2016.

Here’s an excerpt from my skeptical analysis in that “Fox Guarding the Henhouse” post:

Sotheby’s chief business, no matter whom they represent, is monetizing art and other collectibles. Artists’ estates and foundations could prove to be a largely untapped goldmine….Could Sotheby’s interest in churning the assets under its aegis run into conflict with the best interests of the artists, their estates and foundations with whom they may contract to provide disinterested advice?

Sotheby’s Fine Art Division arose from its $50-million purchase in 2016 of Amy Cappellazzo‘s, Allan Schwartzman‘s, and Adam Chinn‘s Art Agency, Partners. That private advisory service had originally prided itself in being “advocates for individual and family collections, in ways that galleries, auction houses, and dealers cannot, by virtue of its principals’ independence [emphasis added].”

an ArtsJournal blog