In 2021, when Kevin Ching announced his resignation as Sotheby’s Asia CEO, the auction industry was shaken to the core.
A year later, the global auction house is undergoing another shakeup – International Chairman Patti Wong will retire from Sotheby's at the end of this year, after more than 30 years of dedicated service.
Sotheby's business in Hong Kong has expanded dramatically under her leadership, which has seen a year-to-date auction turnover in Asia of more than $1 billion. With the departure of the "Queen of Auction," the house is now entering the "post-Patti period," and we'll see how it faces the challenge.
Despite the pandemic, Sotheby's Asia managed to pull off remarkable results under the leadership of Patti Wong
Speaking of her retirement from Sotheby's, Patti Wong remarked:
"It has been my utmost privilege to serve and be a part of Sotheby’s family. The last three decades have been an amazing journey.
When asked about my goals shortly after I joined, I replied that I set out to help build Hong Kong into an art hub as important as New York and London, and for Sotheby’s Asia to become one of Sotheby’s crown jewels. I can proudly say that together we have achieved that goal. Our Asia business is in tremendous shape, still full of ambition and with great prospects ahead, and it is led by a fantastic team of whom I am very proud.
Though I am stepping down – I will never go far. Sotheby’s runs in my blood; we will always stay close."
- Patti Wong, International Chairman at Sotheby’s
Patti Wong and Kevin Ching are instrumental in the growth of Sotheby's business developemnt in Asia
Patti's status in the auction world is second to none in Asia. While she has frequently been interviewed by major news outlets, she keeps a low profile and speaks primarily about Sotheby's business and the auction market, and rarely her private affairs.
Grandaughter of the late Hang Seng Bank co-founder Lam Bing-yim, Patti's parents are both renowned bankers. Educated both in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, she received her bachelor's degree in Monetary Economics from the London School of Economics in 1990, followed by a post graduate diploma in Asian Arts at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University in 1991, the year when she joined Sotheby's.
She was based in London for almost fifteen years, during which she held the post of Head of Private Client Services Department. At the time, her mother Dr. Alice Piera Lam Lee Kiu-yue decided to leave the banking sector, before being appointed the co-chairperson of Sotheby’s Asia 1996. Joining hands, the duo brought about many of the impactful milestones in the auction house.
Patti returned to Hong Kong to serve as Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia in 2004
Back in 1996, as the handover of Hong Kong came close, Sotheby's was looking for a local legal expert to develop the Greater China market. With a discerning eye, Lam approached Kevin Ching, who initially accepted the offer, but was convinced otherwise by Dickson Concepts, a distributor of luxury brands of which he was Board Executive Director and Group Legal Counsel.
Her brief yet remarkable career at Sotheby's marked a significant expansion of the house's client base in Asia, thanks to her comprehensive expertise in the field and extensive network of international contacts.
In 2004, Patti returned to Hong Kong to serve as Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia. Soon after, she invited Kevin Ching once again, and this time he finally agreed to take up the position of Chief Executive Officer of Sotheby's Asia. Under their tenure, Sotheby's Hong Kong has grown into one of the leading auction houses in Asia.
Patti placed million-dollar bids for her clients at auctions
With her tremendous support and robust connection with Asian clients, Patti has facilitated many successful sales of Western masterpieces, whether in Hong Kong, New York or London.
Throughout the years, she has built unshakeable trust with collectors and colleagues alike. No biography is as accurate as the one that describes her: Patti is only a call a away from the most important clients.
Every season, she places million-dollar bids for her clients at auctions, and the auctioneer always says, "Thank you, Patti," when the hammer falls.
Auction aside, she extends her reach further into the jewelry retail market. In 2005, led by Patti, Sotheby's worked with the world-famous Diacore to create Sotheby’s Diamonds, of which she is the Chairman. With her skill and knowledge as well as exceptional taste, Sotheby's Diamonds has became synonymous with quality jewelry brand today.
Sotheby's Diamonds has became synonymous with quality jewelry brand today
Charles F. Stewart, Chief Executive Officer of Sotheby's, announced the news through an internal email:
"To say that we are enormously grateful to Patti for her contributions to the company is an understatement. Patti is simply a force of nature – a top expert and astute businesswoman – who has played a key role in helping to develop our fine art and luxury businesses both internationally and specifically in Asia.
Though Patti will be much missed, it is from this place of strength and market leadership that our team will continue to grow our Asia franchise. Our team in Asia is second to none, and our Asian business remains formidable in the hands of a new generation of forwarding-thinking, industry-leading professionals (Nicolas Chow, Wendy Lin, Jen Hua, Wenhao Yu, Alex Branczik, Jasmine Presetio, and Nathan Drahi), many of whom were mentored by and worked closely with Patti over the years.
Together, they will continue to build on her great legacy of connoisseurship and exceptional client service and are ambitious about our continued innovation and expansion across the region."
"We are grateful to Patti for having been such an inspiration to all of us at Sotheby’s and having set such a high benchmark in the depth of her knowledge, devotion to clients and mentorship of the next generation. 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 and we are excited about furthering it in years to come."
- Nicolas Chow, Chairman of Sotheby's Asia