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Wednesday, 03 December 2014 15:44

Christie’s CEO Steven Murphy Announces Resignation

After four years as Christie’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Steven Murphy announced that he will leave his post at the auction house. The surprise announcement, which was issued on Tuesday, December 2, came just twelve days after William Ruprecht, the CEO of Sotheby’s for fourteen years, announced his resignation. The two auction houses have long battled for primacy in the art market, though Christie’s has been considered the leader in recent years thanks to a growing online presence, expanded markets in China and Mumbai, and astronomical contemporary art sales.

Murphy will be succeeded by Patricia Barbizet, the Executive Director of Artémis Group, the investment company founded by French billionaire François Pinault, who also owns Christie’s. Barbizet will retain her position at Artémis as well as her role as the Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of Christie’s.

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Friday, 26 April 2013 14:44

Billionaire to Return Looted Bronzes to China

Francois-Henri Pinault, a French billionaire and CEO of the luxury-goods brand, Kering (formerly PPR), has announced that he will return a pair of Qing dynasty bronze statues to China. The looted bronzes were part of a 2009 auction at Christie’s in Paris that sparked a campaign in China aimed at putting an end to intimidation by foreign powers. Officials from Beijing have applauded Pinault’s efforts to create a more camaraderie-focused dynamic between France and China. Pinault is the owner of the Artemis Group, Christie’s holding company.

The works to be returned to China are the bronze heads of a rat and a rabbit, which were part of a group of 12 animal heads that were looted from Beijing’s Summer Palace by French and British troops in 1860 during the Second Opium War. Since emerging as a powerful international force in recent years, China has been campaigning for the return of the works. Five of the bronzes have been given back to China and one is in Taiwan while the whereabouts of the remaining four pieces remain a mystery.

The bronzes being returned to China by Pinault were previously owned by French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and were put up for auction in 2009 following his death. Chinese officials voiced opposition at the time of the sale and an advisor to a Chinese government fund placed the winning bid on the bronzes but never ended up paying for them. The works were returned to Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent’s former partner.

Pinault is working with the Cultural Heritage Administration to get the bronzes back to China as quickly as possible. The decision is a clever move on Pinault’s part as his businesses, which include Gucci and Puma, have been thriving in China’s growing consumer economy.

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