Christie’s Xin Li makes great copy. And W Magazine goes to the well again with this profile of her. Aside from the well-worn story of Li’s impressive success, we learn how integral a group of women has been to her rise. We are also reminded, once again, how few big clients it takes for a specialist or art dealer to truly thrive at the top of the market.
Li’s job is to find the most coveted works of art—and the Asian collectors willing to drop $100 million for them. Her core group of 10 clients is primarily female, self-made, and entrepreneurial. […]
One of Li’s tools is WeChat, the messaging app that serves a half-billion users in China and to which she regularly posts grids of images grouped thematically to highlight items from Christie’s sales. She also sends art books to her clients and offers them private tours, such as the one of the Picasso sculpture exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art with her close friend Diana Widmaier-Picasso, an art historian who is writing the first complete scholarly inventory of her grandfather’s sculptures. Widmaier-Picasso, in fact, brokered Li’s entrée to the art world. Introduced at a dinner party on St. Barths in early 2008, Li confided that she loved art and was eager to move on from modeling; Widmaier-Picasso suggested Sotheby’s, where she had once worked, and set up an interview. During Li’s first week there as a trainee, Murdoch bought a painting by Fang Lijun—and has been a client ever since.
The profile also contains this unintentionally revealing comment about Christie’s, (or maybe it’s entirely intentional,) that suggests rampant internal competition is the norm:
“There’s absolutely no hauteur about Li,” says Marc Porter, the former chairman of Christie’s Americas, who is decamping to Sotheby’s. “So when her colleagues have great projects or clients, instead of going around her, they want to work with her.”
Deputy Chairman of Christie’s Asia, Xin Li Talks Art (W Magazine)