Matthew Stephenson, formerly director of Christie’s client strategy for Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and India, is leaving the auction house after 16 years to join the Pace Gallery in London. Stephenson will serve as the gallery’s international senior director. He will assume his new post in September 2013.
For three years beginning in 2009, Stephenson, a graduate of King's College, managed Christie’s Russian operations out of Moscow. Before that, he worked as a specialist in the Impressionist and 20th Century departments and oversaw Christie’s Impressionist and Modern evening sales in London. He was on the team that organized, marketed, and sold the collection of real estate developer Sidney Brody in 2010, which included Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust” (1932). The painting achieved a record $106.5 million and remains the second highest price ever achieved for a work of art at auction. Stephenson also played an active role in the 2009 sale of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in Paris, which holds the record for the most valuable collection ever sold at auction.
Stephenson’s close ties with Russia undoubtedly appealed to Pace, which opened its first London outpost in the west wing of the London Academy last October. Like many New York galleries that expanded to the region last year — including Michael Werner and David Zwirner — Pace is using London as a jumping-off point to access collectors in moneyed regions like Russia and the Middle East.
“London is a place where citizens of certain regions come to really live, not just to visit,” Pace president Marc Glimcher told ARTINFO last year, when asked about London’s appeal as an art market. “Just look at the nationalities of the kids in English schools. People from the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Russia, and India — they are all committed to London.”
At Pace, Stephenson will join another veteran of Russia’s market, Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst. Before launching the gallery's London space, Dent-Brocklehurst served as international director of Dasha Zhukova’s Garage Center for Contemporary Art in Moscow and advised Russian billionaire Roman Abramovic on his collection.
Stephenson's new gig also makes him part of a select group of auction house veterans who have recently decided to give up the gavel and go private. In February, Ken Yeh, Christie’s chairman for Asia, announced he would be heading up Asian sales for Acquavella Galleries.