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Sotheby’s Hires Rauschenberg Foundation CEO Christy MacLear, Aiming to Expand Advisory Services for Artist Estates


Christy MacLear.


Barely over a week ago we were here telling you that Sotheby’s had acquired an anti-forgery firm, furthering its status as an auction house that would keep on adding appendages to its business until it reached full vertical integration. Instead of outsourcing its needs to specialized practices, Sotheby’s could become a sort of mini-art world, with all the necessary services on offer for its clients and shareholders around the world.

So far Sotheby’s has acquired the following: the advisory firm Art Agency, Partners; the director of a museum devoted to the market’s favorite artist (Andy Warhol); the parent company of a Chinese auction house, as its new leading shareholder; a trade paper’s auction reporter, to file analysis internally at Sotheby’s instead of for a general readership; an analytics machine that churns out data comparing the strength of the art market to other asset classes; a branch of Sant Ambroeus to fuel its clients with caffeine; and, as of last week, a new science division to catch fakes.

What to buy next? I speculated that it would be a Saville Row tailor to make it easier to get fitted for the same suit that all those guys wear, but instead, they’ve hired Christy MacLear, who has been the inaugural CEO of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation since 2010. She’ll be working to expand the advisory services within Sotheby’s, acting as its expert on artist estates and foundations.

“We are extremely pleased with the development of our advisory services business both in terms of impact with new and existing clients as well as for Sotheby’s shareholders,” Sotheby’s CEO Tad Smith said in a statement. “Expanding into advisory services for artists and artist endowed foundations is an exciting new frontier and we are thrilled that Christy is here to lead such an important initiative for us.”

She’ll work most closely with Art Agency, Partners co-founder Allen Schwartzman, who began to expand in a statement on how exactly she’ll deal with the tricky nature of the switchover that happens after an artist’s death, when the works start to become handled by the estate.

“Christy’s important role leading the legacies of Robert Rauschenberg, Philip Johnson and David Whitney is analogous to the long-term relationships that are the focus of the advisory work that we built at Art Agency, Partners and are expanding through Sotheby’s,” Schwartzman said. “She has developed a specialized skill set and fills a void—the role between estate lawyers and gallerists that exists specifically to help living artists to plan, estate trustees to transition, and existing artist foundations to manage programs.”

As per the release, here are some of the services that Sotheby’s once had to outsource, but can now handle internally:

…strategic planning with living artists considering all assets toward legacy goals; financial and organizational mapping from a studio to a foundation; advisory management during the estate process to transition assets with a long term view of use and value; and defining and launching programs for foundations to maximize their legacy’s reach and impact.

MacLear has spent the past few years preparing for Rauschenberg’s first major retrospective since his death in 2008, which is now on view at Tate Modern in London. She’ll stay on with the foundation in the role of an advisor as that show travels to MoMA and SFMOMA.

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