Christie’s chairman Brett Gorvy leaves auction house to join forces with New York dealer Dominique Lévy

The head of postwar and contemporary art has presided over the category’s explosive growth

Brett Gorvy, the chairman and international head of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s—who, during his 23-year tenure with the company, pushed totals for the category beyond $984.5m in a single season in May 2015—announced he will be leaving, effective immediately, to partner with the dealer Dominique Lévy, in a new firm to be known as Lévy Gorvy.

Gorvy moved from Christie’s London to lead the New York department in 2000 and has been deputy chairman of Christie’s Americas since 2007. Under his lead, the department achieved many notable prices, including those for Lucian Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, sold for $33.6m with premium in 2008, a record for a work by a living artist; $58m with premium for Jackson Pollock’s Number 19 (1948), in May 2013; Roy Lichtenstein’s Nurse (1964), sold for $95.4m with premium in November 2015; and an untitled 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat, which fetched $57.3m with premium this past May. Warhol—a Gorvy specialty—also saw new heights, including $71.7m for the artist’s Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) in May 2007, a record at the time. He manned the phone on behalf of the winning bidders for Mark Rothko’s Orange, Red, Yellow, from the Pincus collection, for $86.9m with premium in May 2012, as well as for Picasso’s Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) (1955), for $179.3m with premium, in the record-shattering Looking Forward to the Past sale in May 2015.

In a statement, Gorvy said: “To those who know me well, you will be fully aware of my profound love for Christie’s and the deep respect and pride that I have for the international team… You can only therefore imagine how difficult and considered the decision has been to take this next step”. He adds, “I will still have close synergy with Christie’s, most especially in 2017, as I will continue to work with the postwar and contemporary team on specific exhibition projects and key consignments.”

Stephen Brooks, deputy chief executive officer, Christie’s, said in a statement, “As advantageous as it has been to have a Brett inside, it will be equally advantageous to have him as an ally to Christie’s on the outside”.

Foreshadowing his pivot to the gallery world, Gorvy has also expanded the auctioneer’s private sales business, which some say has blurred the line between auction houses and dealers. Lévy, an established force with galleries in New York, London, and Geneva, represents 14 artists and estates, including Enrico Castellani, Günther Uecker, Pierre Soulages, and Yves Klein. “I am incredibly excited to join forces with Brett, with whom I share a passion for art and a deep love for our profession. This partnership with be a meaningful synergy of ambition and joy”, says Lévy. According to a spokeswoman, together, they will continue the gallery business but add a “pinnacle level” art advisory servicing collectors, artists’ families, and more. Gorvy will begin on 2 January , at the same time Lévy expands to occupy all three floors of 909 Madison Avenue, the gallery building she had shared with Emmanuel Perrotin since 2013.

Alexander Rotter, who left Sotheby’s as global co-head of contemporary art earlier this year, will assume the title of chairman of postwar and contemporary art, Americas, in March, alongside international chair Laura Paulson.