Highlighting the importance of Asian buyers in the contemporary art market, Sotheby’s has promoted two of the company’s top specialists, Alex Branczik in London and Max Moore in New York, to new positions at the house’s Hong Kong headquarters. Branczik will assume the role as Sotheby’s chairman of modern and contemporary art in Asia. Moore has been appointed as head of contemporary art sales in Asia. He is taking over for Yuki Terase, who has served as the head of contemporary art since 2018, as she plans to depart Sotheby’s in July.
In his new role, Branczik, who has been Sotheby’s European head of contemporary art since 2016, will serve as “the strategic lead” for modern and contemporary art sales in Asia. During his 17-year tenure with the Sotheby’s, his milestones included the $23 million sale of Zeng Fanzhi’s The Last Supper (2001) in October 2013 during a Hong Kong evening sale, then a record price for an Asian artist at auction. Prior to his tenure at Sotheby’s, Branczik was an equities analyst at UBS Investment Bank.
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Heading up contemporary art sales in Asia, Moore will work closely with Branczik and the department’s staff to expand sale growth. Moore has been with Sotheby’s since 2015 and has served as a contemporary specialist in New York since 2018. Most recently, as vice president and co-head of the contemporary art day auction in New York, he led the $18 million “Fungible Collection” sale by crypto artist Pak in collaboration with digital art selling platform Nifty Gateway. Moore’s father, neurosurgeon Frank Moore, has appeared on the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list.
The news follows the recent appointment of Nathan Drahi, the 26-year-old son of Sotheby’s owner Patrick Drahi, as the new managing director of Asia. It’s been a tumultuous year for the house in the wake of the pandemic. Last year, Sotheby’s global auction sales fell 27 percent. Its performance in Asia proved a bright spot with sales, with its Hong Kong hub reaching $932 million—20 percent of Sotheby’s total global sales—last year. The “number of Asian clients bidding online is growing faster than anywhere else in the world,” the release for the house’s annual report said—“more than doubling in 2020.”
“Asia is our highest growth region at Sotheby’s, and there is immense potential for further expansion in Modern and Contemporary Art,” said Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart in a statement. “Alex Branczik is one of the most senior and talented specialists at Sotheby’s, and Max has proven himself in New York as a dynamic contemporary art leader and specialist.”
Terase, who will leave Sotheby’s to “venture into the entrepreneurial world,” according to Sotheby’s statement, has left a mark on the house’s Asia market center. Under Terase’s direction, Sotheby’s Asia expanded sales offerings to comprise an equal number of Asian and Western artists—a move that helped bring their October contemporary art evening sale up to $88 million.
That season also saw mega collector Ronald Perelman’s Gerhard Richter painting Abstraktes Bild (649-2), 1987, sell for $28 million—a record for a Western artist at auction in Asia—and a David Hockney floral still life for $14.7 million, then the second-highest price for a Western artist in the Hong Kong auctions. The increasing global attention on the sales is moving prices up for high-caliber lots. “It’s significant, rapid growth—probably only possible in a place like Asia,” Terase told ARTnews last year.
Sotheby’s is also shuffling its senior staff at its New York headquarters. Earlier this month, the house announced that Amy Cappellazzo, the longtime head of its global fine art division, would leave in June. Impressionist and modern art specialist Brooke Lampley and business development executive Mari-Claudia Jiménez will take over as Cappellazzo steps down. Meanwhile, Grégoire Billault, a contemporary art specialist, was promoted to chairman of Sotheby’s contemporary art in New York.