I’m starting to feel old. For the record, I’m in the “not yet fully vaccinated” category, but I’m apparently ahead of the queue compared to most of the people who now dominate the art market. It’s not exclusively the NFT brigade, though their youthful exuberance is starting to creak. Last month I asked a recently appointed expert (on Zoom, ofc): “Where are you calling from? “I’m a bit of a tech nomad,” he replied.
Okay. I understand. I put you in one of my Gen X lockers which also includes tangible objects and boring artistic borders such as ‘impressionist’ and ‘modern’. This is not the world today. We are talking about 20th and 21st century art, Christie’s decided, and even those limits are no real limits, given that Basquiat, who died in 1988, is classified as a 21st century artist. Go with the flow.
Christie’s crypto-art chief Noah Davis – who was partly responsible for the improbability of making Beeple a household name – is in his early 30s. His counterpart at Sotheby’s, Max Moore, is 27 and is now moving to Hong Kong to become head of contemporary art sales in Asia. There are (fortunately) girls as well as boys in the new world order. Pace Gallery’s newly appointed first online sales manager Christiana Ine-Kimba Boyle is in her mid-twenties.
It makes a lot of sense. Understanding the relevance for digital art of the virtual realities of gaming, cultural “drops” and blockchain must benefit from a native, probably nomadic mindset. As Davis recently said during an online panel, “An interviewer asked me to explain NFT to him as if he were a child… And I thought if you were a child, you would. would have already understood. ”
Ideally, Fortnite knowledge should be combined with a little background and a dose of common sense, but we can save that for when these items stop selling for eight-figure sums (probably already, but shhh).
Then there is Nathan Drahi, who made me feel old. He is only 26 years old and has been running Sotheby’s Asia since May, replacing Kevin Ching who is retiring after 15 years as managing director of the region’s auction house. This is a position of serious responsibility. Since his father, Patrick Drahi, bought the auction house in 2019, Asia is shaping up to be more and more the future of the art market and already represents, even today, more than ‘a quarter of Sotheby’s annual sales. There are other young people at the helm at the moment: Vogue China recently appointed Margaret Zhang, 27, editor-in-chief, while also this year Alexandre Arnault, the 28-year-old son of the owner-president of LVMH, has been hired into a management position at Tiffany & Co.
So who am I to say that a 26 year old called Drahi is not the best person for the job? He has some experience at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, having joined as Commercial Director last year. His previous experience outside of the art world, at investment bank JP Morgan and private equity group BC Partners, will bring a fresh take on an old company in difficult times. Auction houses have also long been classic old boys networks, where friends and family get useful elevators. It just seems like the least nomadic decision of the year to me to look no further than your own children.