Matt Carey-Williams, who joined Phillips from White Cube in 2015, is going back to the gallery world and will start at Blain Southern in London as a director in September. The move, only two-and-a-half years after Carey-Williams became Phillips’s deputy chairman for Europe and Asia, is the auction house’s first high-profile departure from London since Edward Dolman joined as chief executive in 2014.
“Phillips is and will continue to be a vibrant part of the art world, but for me there is nothing that replaces the thrill of working with artists,” Carey-Williams says.
The move to Blain Southern is something of a homecoming for him. He started working for co-founders Harry Blain and Graham Southern at Haunch of Venison in 2006, the year before they sold the gallery to Christie’s. Blain and Southern left in 2010 and Carey-Williams in 2012; Christie’s closed the gallery in 2013.
During his time at Haunch of Venison, Carey-Williams worked with artists including Mat Collishaw, Rachel Howard and Bill Viola, who are still in the Blain Southern fold. At White Cube between 2012 and 2015, he worked with Jake & Dinos Chapman, who moved to Blain Southern earlier this year. Carey-Williams says it was Jake Chapman who initially put forward the idea of working together again.
Phillips has mostly been the beneficiary of the shake-ups at Sotheby’s and Christie’s over the past 18 months, which have included several senior staff defections. Phillips’s big-hitting hires have included Cheyenne Westphal, who joined as its chairman, having headed Sotheby’s contemporary art department, two months ago. Carey-Williams stresses that Westphal’s appointment was not a factor in his decision. “I have the highest admiration for her,” he adds.
Dolman says: “Phillips would like to thank Matt for his many contributions over the last two years and we wish him every success for the future.” He says that Carey-Williams played a “strong role” in the auction house’s sales in New York last week.
Carey-Williams is currently in Hong Kong supporting Phillips’s 20th-century and contemporary art and design sale on Sunday. He leaves the auction house at the end of this month.