There was a great deal written last week about Brett Gorvy's departure from Christie's. Many tried to cast the move as an indication of shifting power from from one portion of the art market (auction houses) to another (dealers.) Others saw it as a mark of the new synergy between dealers and auction houses as more sales are arranged with guarantees provided by dealers.
A few imagined Christie's was suffering from the loss of its rainmaking department head; others poke around for evidence that Gorvy was pushed. After considering many of these accounts, it would appear that Gorvy is best reporter of what motivates him.
Here's what he told the New York Times in their pre-arranged announcement:
“Everyone thinks I’m about market share,” he said. “In fact, I’m much more interested in, did I have the best paintings?”
To fully understand the meaning of that statement, we need to put Gorvy's tenure into context.
But, first, let's not bury the one bit of news we have before launching into the analysis. As pointed out by one interested party, the most significant fact within Gorvy's departure has gone universally unmentioned.
Gorvy is transitioning from Christie's to Lévy Gorvy without having to take even token gardening leave. All of today's auction house personnel—and certainly one as senior as Gorvy—have detailed non-compete clauses that would normally require Gorvy to sit out year of market action.
Instead, Gorvy and Christie's struck a deal that allows him to launch Lévy Gorvy in January. In return, Christie's says, he will "act as a consultant on some specific consignments and projects in 2017 working with the client and Christie’s – predominantly the ones he/we have already secured."
That tells you a) Gorvy has consignments valuable enough for Christie's to make a deal; and, b), that Christie's was eager to let Gorvy move on with his career.
The Great Gamble
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