Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Art, has resigned after serving with the auction house for over two decades.
“With Tobias’ contract soon expiring, we all agreed it was time to part ways,” Sotheby’s CEO Bill Ruprecht relayed in a press statement. “We wish Tobias nothing but good fortune.”
The timing of Meyer’s departure has already given rise to speculation in the press. Within the last year, the so-called “Seller of the Century” has encountered a bevy of setbacks to this title; though he swept to prominence during an age when Sotheby’s was unrivaled, recently, the auction house had failed to bring in contemporary art consignments on the level of Christie’s, stoking the ire of activist shareholders like Daniel Loeb.
Stakes were high for Sotheby’s after last week’s fall auctions in New York. “Without this, we would be in trouble,” Meyer told Newsweek in October, while gazing up at one of the auction house’s jewels for the fall auction season, Andy Warhol’s “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster).” That lot went on to set a personal record for the artist, reaching a hammer price of $104.5 million on November 12.
That work, it seems, did not put a salve on other, potentially more troublesome aspects of that evening’s sale. Concurrent with the Warhol lot, the Sotheby’s salesroom offered up a group of paintings by Steven A. Cohen of SAC Capital Advisors who plead guilty to insider trading charges this November; and a series of works from the collection of the Dia Art Foundation with a lawsuit attached to it by the foundation’s founders who had previously sought to restrict the sale. Both the Cohen and Dia lots reached over $124 million in combined sales; though these numbers still were nothing compared to those at Christie’s.
The Warhol didn’t save Sotheby’s from lagging behind Christie’s in overall sales either. Christie’s set a record during the fall auctions for Francis Bacon’s triptych “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” sold for $142.4 million, helping to buttress its overall lead in fall sales over Sotheby’s by an impressive 45 percent.