Sotheby’s international chairman Patti Wong will retire from her position after three decades with the auction house. The news comes more than a year after Sotheby’s underwent a shakeup at its Hong Kong headquarters following the departure of its longtime Asia CEO, Kevin Ching, who retired after a 15-year tenure.
Over the past two decades, Sotheby’s has moved to bring Western art to the Hong Kong market while expanding its reach towards collectors in the Asia Pacific region. Working closely with Ching, Wong presided over a flourishing period of growth for the Sotheby’s Hong Kong headquarters. Wong assumed the position of Sotheby’s Asia chairman in 2004. Prior to that, she was based at the auction house’s UK headquarters for fifteen years where she headed its private client services department. Since first joining the house as an intern in 1991, she has also overseen Chinese art and jewelry sales. She holds degrees from the London School of Economics and London University.
In a statement, Wong said the house had reached a milestone goal: leveling up Hong Kong as a commercial art hub rivaling its New York and London counterparts.
“Our Asia business is in tremendous shape,” she said, describing it as “still full of ambition and with great prospects ahead.” To date, the house’s annual turnover in Asia is more than $1 billion in sales; that figure was $932 million in 2020.
In New York evening sales, Wong could often be seen fielding multiple winning bids for Asia-based clients vying for contemporary artworks against their Western competitors.
Wong’s departure comes after a period of transition for the regional office following the pandemic. Last year, another Sotheby’s rainmaker, Yuki Terase, left the Hong Kong outpost in July as its head of contemporary art sales after reaching a record high for a fall evening sale that generated $88 million. Terase went on to team up with ex-Sotheby’s Amy Cappellazzo’s to run a newly-minted art advisory firm. Taking over for Terase was Alex Branczik, who was formerly a contemporary specialist; his move followed the appointment of Nathan Drahi, the son of Sotheby’s owner Patrick Drahi, as Asia’s managing director.
In a statement, Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart described Wong as “a force of nature,” in the auction world, leaving a mark the house’s Asia market center.
Nicolas Chow, chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, added that “the market as we know it today in Asia, with an equal focus on art Asian and Western as well as luxury, has much to owe to Patti’s vision.”
As top works tour outside Hong Kong for the biannual evening sales—from Japan to South Korea and Singapore—further expansion seems imminent. Stewart said that its group of “forward-thinking,” specialists and business-getters will continue to focus on growing its Asia franchise.