Cheyenne Westphal, the worldwide head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, is leaving after 25 years in what is another high-profile departure in the string of defections from the auction house’s upper ranks following the fall sales. Alex Rotter, her cohead of the contemporary department, left Sotheby’s a month ago.
Since CEO Tad Smith announced voluntary layoffs in November, more than 80 staffers have left, including David Norman, vice chairman of Sotheby’s Americas, and Henry Wyndham, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe.
During her decades at the auction house, Westphal organized such sales as Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, in which every lot was a new work by Damien Hirst, who helped create the auction. It totaled £121 million ($174 million), a record for a one-artist sale. Since 1999 she has overseen every Sotheby’s contemporary sale in Europe.
In January, the house acquired the advisory firm Art Agency, Partners for $50 million upfront and a provisional $35 million, a move that some saw as risky. Last month, it announced that it would take a fourth-quarter loss of $11 million, due in part to tax charges and after-tax charges relating to repatriating foreign earnings.