Jussi Pylkkänen, Christie’s global president, will depart his post to become an independent art adviser, the auction house announced today. He had been at Christie’s for 38 years.
Pylkkänen’s final Christie’s sale will be an Old Masters auction slated to take place in London on December 7. The house said in its announcement that he will still preside over the marquee 20th-century art evening sale in New York this November.
Some of the most expensive works of art ever sold at auction have hit the block during live sales conducted by Pylkkänen. In 2017, he took the rostrum during the sale of Salvator Mundi, a painting the house credited to Leonardo da Vinci. That work sold for $450.3 million, and still holds the record for the priciest piece ever sold publicly at auction. In 2022, he facilitated bidding for a $195 million Andy Warhol painting of Marilyn Monroe; the buyer was dealer Larry Gagosian.
Last year, he was the auctioneer for Christie’s sale of Paul Allen’s collection. That sale brought in $1.5 billion, making it the biggest single-owner auction ever publicly staged.
Pylkkänen joined Christie’s in the mid-1980s, becoming director of the house’s Impressionist and modern art department in 1995 and remaining in that position for a decade. He then became president of Christie’s operations in Europe, the Middle East, and Russia before taking on his current title in 2014.
In the nearly 40 years that he has been with the house, he has been credited with vastly expanding its clout, helping it to achieve its first $1 billion week in 2015. That year, he presided over an auction in which a $170.4 million Amedeo Modigliani painting sold to Chinese collector Liu Yiqian, who has more recently begun to sell works from his holdings at auction.
“Pylkkanen’s abilities and his platform have turned him into the most prominent broker in the global auction houses,” the Financial Times wrote in a profile of Pylkkänen that year. Nearly a decade earlier, the Telegraph named him “the smartest young auctioneer of the lot.”
In a statement, Pylkkänen said, “Christie’s is an inspiring place to work and has brought me great happiness across four decades working with the very best specialists in the market, at the very heart of the art world. I have been privileged to have the opportunity to befriend collectors all over the globe and auctioneer works of art of superb quality in every category in London, New York, Paris and Hong Kong. The art market continues to evolve and the extraordinary influx of buyers at the top of the market now offers me a unique opportunity to share my experience with a new generation of collectors who are keen to buy major works of art both privately and at auction.”