In August 2019, Rebecca Wei stepped down as Chairwoman of Christie’s Asia, leaving the auction house where she had spent seven years. Her resignation came as a surprise to many since she was only promoted to the position eight months ago, fuelling speculations about her next career move. Some said she would be joining one of Christie’s competitors whereas some thought she was leaving the art world for other industries.
A year has gone by, and we finally have the answer. Wei is joining Lévy Gorvy Asia as a Founding Partner, starting on 1 October 2020. She will continue the expansion of Lévy Gorvy’s dynamic activities throughout the region. The Value had an interview with Rebecca Wei on her new role.
Why are you changing your career path from auction house to gallery?
Wei: I don’t like repeating myself. The auction business is something I have got familiar with as I helped Christie’s setting numerous auction records over my eight-year career there. I think the gallery business is an exciting field where my next breakthroughs will be in.
Over the past six years, many galleries are setting foot in Asia thanks to Art Basel Hong Kong. But the idea of a gallery is still pretty new in the region. With Asian buyers’ growing demand for Western artwork, galleries will play an indispensable role in the art market, where auction houses take up about one-third of the business for now. In other words, two-third of the transactions are done outside auction houses.
I think there is still plenty of room for galleries’ business to grow in Asia. Christie’s has been running its business in the region for 30 years whereas galleries have only entered the field for about a decade. So I think the gallery business is still budding here.
Why did you choose Lévy Gorvy among all other top galleries?
Wei: Lévy Gorvy’s commitment to the Asian art community and Asian collectors, as well as their strong team with many Asian talents, are the reasons why I decided to join the gallery. An amazing team, great team spirit among like-minded colleagues and innovative approaches are the three most important factors to me.
My past experience at the auction house has equipped me with a solid understanding of the secondary market, where Lévy Gorvy has also specialised in. So I believe I am a great fit for the job. The gallery has done an exceptional job in discovering great works of art in New York, London, Switzerland, Italy and Paris. Together with their strong clientele, they are able to match these good works with interested buyers quickly. This is what makes them stay competitive in the ever-changing art market.
What are your career goals and plans?
Wei: Regarding Lévy Gorvy’s vision and plans in Asia, our priority is to overcome the COVID-19 crisis smoothly. I have confidence in the gallery and the Asian market. Besides, it’s been a year since I left Hong Kong so I will catch up with my old friends and get myself familiar with the new job.
Lévy Gorvy wrote on the official press release: ‘Ms. Wei’s arrival at the gallery is a significant development in the field itself: she is the first Chinese-born founding Partner of a Western gallery in the region…She will continue the expansion of Lévy Gorvy’s dynamic activities throughout the region in close collaboration with Danqing Li...Together they will develop the gallery’s critically acclaimed program while continuing to grow relationships with leading collectors, connoisseurs, artists, and museum colleagues and trade colleagues throughout China, Korea, Japan, Singapore and across Asia.’
Wei joined Christie’s Asia in 2002 as General Manager and became Managing Director in 2014. She was appointed President, Asia, in 2016, responsible for overseeing auctions, private sales, and e-commerce in Asia. In January 2019, she was promoted to Chairwoman in Asia to lead Christie’s top client program as a primary business getter and a collaborator with the company’s global team of specialists and client advisors.
Before moving into the auction industry, Wei spent over ten years at McKinsey and Company and became the first female partner to be elected to enter their Greater China office. Prior to that, she worked at UBS Warburg Dillon Read and served on the Board of several listed companies.
Wei has contributed significantly to the growth of Christie’s in Asia and especially in Greater China. During her tenure at Christie’s Asia, activities of Asian buyers within the region and around the world have increased, accounting for 25% of Christie’s global sales in 2018. 70% of Christie’s Asia business comes from Greater China. Wei’s strong connection with Asian clients is definitely a great asset to Lévy Gorvy.
Numerous leading lots were sold to Wei’s clients
In the 2018 autumn sales in Hong Kong, Christie’s totalled HK$2.75 billion (US$353 million) with a number of records produced, including the record for the most expensive object ever sold by Christie’s in Asia. Su Shi’s Wood and Rock, a 1,000-year-old masterpiece, sold for record-shattering HK$463m (US$59.5m) to Rebecca Wei’s telephone bidder, who was later revealed by Wei to be a buyer from Greater China.
In autumn 2017, Christie's held an unprecedented evening sale for Chinese works of art and the sale was led by a Wucai fish jar and cover, Jiajing reign, from Le Cong Tang collection. The jar was hammered down for HK$188m and sold for HK$213m to Wei's telephone bidder. The final price realised is the third-highest auction record for any Ming ceramics.
At Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in New York in November 2017, Vincent van Gogh’s Laboureur dans un champ became the top-price lot of the night after selling for a whopping US$81.3m, the second highest auction price in history for the artist. The painting was sold to Rebecca’s client.
Brett Gorvy at the opening of Lévy Gorvy’s Hong Kong branch
Like Rebecca, the two founders of Lévy Gorvy, Dominique Lévy and Brett Gorvy, also came from an auction background.
Lévy Gorvy completed her first internship for Christie’s in New York in 1987. She then worked for Sotheby’s for four years after she went back to Switzerland. Afterwards, she worked with French art dealer Daniel Malingue on the opening of his gallery. In 1999, she was hired as the International Director of the Private Sales department at Christie's in New York. She founded boutique art advisory service Dominique Lévy Fine Art in 2003 and co-founded L&M Arts with Robert Mnuchin in 2005.
In 2017, Lévy co-founded Lévy Gorvy with art dealer Brett Gorvy, former Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s. Brett Gorvy spent 23 years at the auction house and pulled off a number of remarkable sales. He is one of the leading forces and tastemakers within the 20th century art market.
Danqing Li, President of Lévy Gorvy Asia
In 2019, Lévy Gorvy opened a new space in Central, Hong Kong, and appointed Danqing Li as the Senior Director of Asia (currently as President of Lévy Gorvy Asia).
Li previously worked as a specialist in Post War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s, where she helped to develop client relationships across Asia through auctions, private sales, and exhibitions. She also successfully led Christie’s inaugural +86 First Open project and sale in Shanghai in 2015, promoting works by emerging Chinese contemporary artists to a global audience.
Lévy Gorvy quickly became one of the top international galleries in only 6 years after its establishment. Wei’s expertise and connection will certainly add great value to the team. Please stay tuned for more updates from Lévy Gorvy.
Lévy Gorvy’s Asian headquarters in Central, Hong Kong
The official press release on Wei's joining Lévy Gorvy is as below:
Dominique Lévy commented, 'Brett and I are delighted and honored that Rebecca Wei is joining us as our Partner in Lévy Gorvy Asia, bringing her singular combination of financial experience, expertise in art, and strong relationships in Asia, which complements our gallery’s longstanding commitment to the region. We are excited for the continued success of our team in Asia—since 2017, under the leadership of Danqing Li, the gallery has never ceased to bring acclaimed exhibitions to the region and to be active in the market. Our work in Asia began with our participation in the very first Art Basel Hong Kong fair in 2013. Since then, and in spite of the dramatic and challenging times we are all living in, our commitment and belief in the region has only grown. We may be the only Western gallery in Hong Kong to have remained open throughout the past year, determined to stand for the power of art to unite and heal.'
Brett Gorvy commented, 'Rebecca Wei and I have known each other for many years, having worked closely together during our mutual time as Chairpersons at Christie’s. I have always been impressed by Rebecca’s incredible energy, dedication, and her global understanding of the market, as well as the respect she has with her Asian clients. She is a leader in the art world, known equally for her tremendous business acumen and her personal passion for art. Together with Danqing Li, we are excited for Rebecca to help us shape our business in Asia to match the new opportunities and challenges in today’s ever-growing market.'
Rebecca Wei says, 'I feel honored and excited to be joining forces with Dominique and Brett who are legendary figures in the global art market. I have the utmost respect for Danqing and the Lévy Gorvy team in Asia. Their expertise, access to the market, and their commitment to Asia are extraordinary. I believe together, we can be more innovative and create more excitement in the region.”
Danqing Li says, “For the last three years, Lévy Gorvy has built a solid brand name and business presence in Asia. Our commitment to Asian collectors, artists, and art enthusiasts never stops. It is exciting to have Rebecca join us. Her extensive commercial experience as well as her seniority will add great value to the team. Together, we look forward to excelling.'