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Sotheby’s announced that it has named Alexander Rotter and Cheyenne Westphal the new Global Heads of Contemporary Art. Tobias Meyer, the auction house’s former Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art, stepped down at the end of November 2013. Rotter and Westphal have both been with Sotheby’s for many years -- Rotter was behind the recent sale of Andy Warhol’s ‘Silver Car Crash,’ which brought a record $104 million, and Westphal helped launch Sotheby’s new contemporary art galleries in London.

Helena Newman and Simon Shaw will helm the auction house’s department of Impressionist and Modern Art. Newman, who joined Sotheby’s in 1988, was instrumental in the February 2010 auction that netted $263.6 million, a record for a European sale. Shaw, who has worked at Sotheby’s outposts in Stockholm, Paris and London, orchestrated the 2012 sale of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream,’ which sold for an historic price of $119.9 million, a record for a modern work of art at auction.

Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund manager who is Sotheby’s largest shareholder, recently commented on the auction house’s need to establish new leadership and more efficient operations.

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Sotheby’s announced that Tobias Meyer, who has served as the auction house’s worldwide head of contemporary art since 1997, will leave the company. Meyer joined Sotheby’s in 1992 as head of the contemporary art department in London. Rumors have swirled that Meyer’s departure was the result of pressure from Sotheby’s investors to establish new leadership and more efficient operations. Hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, who owns Third Point LLC and is Sotheby’s largest shareholder, has spoken critically of the auction house’s executive compensation and supposedly waning competitive edge.

Meyer said, “I will always cherish my time at Sotheby’s and look forward to the next chapter in my career.I have had over 20 years of the most marvelous experiences at Sotheby’s where I have made many friends and had wonderful times. I wish Sotheby’s the best of luck in the future.”

The auction house said that it has no plans to fill the role of worldwide head of contemporary art. Alex Rotter will continue as the head of contemporary art in the Americas and Cheyenne Westphal as the head of contemporary art in Europe.

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Thursday, 10 October 2013 17:28

Rare de Kooning Painting Heads to Sotheby’s

A painting by Willem de Kooning from a rare and celebrated series will head to Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale on November 13, 2013 in New York. Executed in 1975, Untitled V is the prime example from the critical phase when de Kooning returned to painting after a period of sculpture-driven work. The painting has not been seen in public since 1980 and will go on view in London on October 12, 2013 before appearing in New York on October 31, 2013. Untitled V is expected to fetch anywhere from $25 million to $35 million.

The original series that Untitled V was a part of was created in six months exhibited at the Fourcade, Droll gallery in New York. The paintings stunned audiences with their explosive color palettes and wide variety of masterful brushstrokes. Tobias Meyer, Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s, said, “The unveiling of Untitled V and the other Fourcade gallery exhibition paintings in the autumn of 1975 marked the renaissance of Willem de Kooning. Today, the force of the work is as powerful and affecting as it was forty years ago.”

The auction record for any de Kooning works was set at Christie’s New York in 2006 when Untitled XXV (1977) sold for $27.1 million. The painting also set the record for the highest price paid for a Post-War work at the time.

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When was the last time an expert from a top auction house dispensed with longtime allegiances and joined forces with someone from the enemy camp? In the fiercely competitive world of Sotheby’s and Christie’s, such an occurrence is rarer than a prized Vermeer.

But for months now there have been rumors that a new powerhouse partnership was in the works, one that would replace Giraud, Pissarro, Ségalot, the superprivate superdealer that pulled off so many big transactions and whose business began winding down soon after Franck Giraud, one of its partners, announced that he was leaving to “explore options inside the art world and out.”

The players making up this new venture, however, had been something of a guessing game.

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