Here’s some serious auction-world-revolving-door news: Just three months after starting his job as chairman of the fine art division at Sotheby’s, Marc Porter will return to Christie’s to be its chairman, Americas, a spokesperson for the house said in an email. Prior to joining Sotheby’s, Porter spent 25 years at Christie’s, holding positions such as chairman and president of the Americas and international head of private sales.
“I am thrilled to be returning to Christie’s in a new role that allows me to work with clients, mentor colleagues and engage with works of art,” Porter said in a statement. “Incubating the talents of all people in the organization and working on large strategic projects has long been my primary interest and I now have an opportunity to do that at the highest level in the art field.”
This is a coup for Christie’s at a time when it needs one. Just last month, CEO Guillaume Cerutti—installed in the chief spot in December after a surprise departure of former CEO and Chairman Patricia Barbizet—announced that his first major move would be to eliminate the South Kensington salesroom in London and lay off up to as many as 250 Christie’s staffer globally. The news came at a time when the postwar and contemporary department was tasked with rebuilding following the departure of its chairman, Brett Gorvy, and when many staffers were defecting for various other positions.
“Marc’s appointment as chairman, Americas complements the changes we made at the board and executive levels late last year and marks a further step in the refinement of our structure as we plan for growth opportunities ahead,” Cerutti said in the statement.
It also represents a remarkably quick turnaround for Porter. After accepting the job at Sotheby’s in December 2015, he had to endure a year off due to the stringent non-compete clauses both houses sew into their big-ticket contracts, ostensibly to dissuade staffers from defecting. He began his blink-and-you-miss-it stint at Sotheby’s in January, for which the house rolled out the red carpet. Instead of a modest press release, there was a lushly designed Q&A with Porter on its website with the headline “The Maestro of the Market: Marc Porter Joins Sotheby’s.
The post was up earlier this morning, but by 11:45 a.m., the same link lead to a notice that said “page not found.” Evidently, the story had been removed from Sothebys.com. A screenshot is below.
After a lengthy year-plus break, the house was ready to pop the champagne to toast the start of what it no doubt hoped would be a long tenure.
“As he embarks on the next phase of his career, at Sotheby’s, this art world maestro took time to reflect on his time off and his general thoughts about the current state of the ever-fascinating art market,” the introduction read.
In the interview, Porter spoke effusively about gardening, a lifelong hobby that occupied him during his required year off, during which time he became a trustee of the New York Botanical Garden. But he did not share his current thoughts on the rival house, which he would end up leaving for just weeks after that interview took place. And this time, a spokesperson said, there is no non-compete, and his start date will be determined imminently.