Asian Contemporary Art Market Rainmaker Yuki Terase to Leave Sotheby’s Hong Kong After Ten Years

A little less than a month after Sotheby’s Hong Kong had wrapped up its marquee spring sales week, the auction house has announced the departure of its Head of Contemporary Art, Yuki Terase. 

The news comes a month after the appointment of Nathan Drahi, the son of Sotheby’s owner Patrick Drahi, as the new Managing Director following the retirement of Kevin Ching, Sotheby’s Asia CEO of 15 years. Prior to that was the exit of Vinci Chang in October last year, who last held the position as the Head of Department, Modern Art, Asia. 

In Terase’s place will be Alex Branczik and Max Moore, who will assume the new roles as Chairman of Modern & Contemporary Art, Asia, and Head of Contemporary Art Sales, Asia, respectively. The duo, though new to the Hong Kong saleroom, is the house’s hope to fuel the growing appetite for Western art and to take the dynamic market to new heights.

Yuki Terase will step down from her current position as Head of Contemporary Art, Asia in July


Terase joined Sotheby’s in 2011 and oversaw every major contemporary art sale since 2018, after she was named the head of the department. Under her tenure, Sotheby’s Hong Kong saw staggering growth in Asia, with the Hong Kong market proven to be a saving grace in the midst of worldwide lockdown. 

Last month’s Hong Kong Modern and Contemporary Art sales tallied HK$2.25bn (US$289m) - a new record high for any equivalent sale series ever held in Asia, with the Contemporary Art sector made up for an unprecedented HK$1.1bn (US$141.6m) this season.

Prior to joining the house, Terase worked for Morgan Stanley as a member of its Mergers and Acquisition advisory team in Tokyo. And her strong connections with Japanese clients definitely contributed to many of the impactful milestones in the auction house, including the record-breaking Basquiat painting, which was sold to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa for US$110.5m - the artist's auction record. 

Terase won the talk-of-town Basquiat painting for her client, for a record-breaking US$110.5m


Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who acquired the 1982 Basquiat painting of a skull, once revealed his plan to take the phenomenal work to the Moon as the first-ever lunar tourist


A number of record-breaking achievements include:
2019 | Yayoi Kusama, Interminable Net #4 | HK$62.4m (US$8m) 
2019 | Yoshitomo Nara, Knife Behind Back | HK$195.7m (US$25m) 
2019 | Liu Ye, Smoke | HK$52.2m (US$6.7m)


Yoshitomo Nara’s Knife Behind Back was sold for HK$195.7m (US$25m) after fees, renewing the auction record for the Japanese artist 


It is also Terase’s forte to bring sensational names from the West to the Asian market. Such Western stalwarts as Gerhard Richter, David Hockney, KAWS, Clyfford Still, Roy Lichtenstein all went past the HK$100m benchmark under her three-year tenure. 

For two consecutive years, Sotheby’s Hong Kong renewed the record of most valuable Western artworks sold in Asia:

2019 | KAWS, THE KAWS ALBUM | HK$116m (US$14.8m)
2020 | Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (649-2) | HK$214m (US$27.6m) 


KAWS, THE KAWS ALBUM, sold for HK$116m (US$14.8m) - a new auction record for the American artist

Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (649-2), sold for HK$214m (US$27.6m), currently stands as the most expensive Western art in Asia 


Record-breaking artworks aside, Terase was also the creative brain behind the 2018 sale of the “conceptual idea” of the Xuzhen Supermarket art installation by Chinese contemporary artist Xu Zhen. The novel idea of putting a concept for an artwork under the hammer, eventually fetched HK$2m (US$255,680) after premium, against its presale estimate of HK$900,000 to 1.5m.

When the pandemic took hold, the modern art sector of Sotheby’s Hong Kong was also among the industry's first to pioneer flash-sales online, to enhance the house’s digital presence during lockdown.

Yuki Terase (left) and contemporary Chinese artist Xu Zhen (center), in front of Xuzheng Supermarket 

Xuzhen Supermarket - a conceptual artwork that features a replica of a Chinese convenience store including a bona fide cash register and an assortment of merchandises


Best known for her innovative curational approach, Terase also spearheaded phenomenal sales curated by trend icons, from Japanese progenitor of street fashion culture NIGO, to famous Korean rapper T.O.P., in 2014 and 2019 respectively. The latest addition on her list is “King of Mandopop” Jay Chou, whose collaboration with the house is set to take place next month. 

Going forward, Terase plans to venture into the entrepreneurial world: “I am so grateful to everyone at Sotheby’s for all their support over the past decade, and am incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished together. My decision to pursue a new chapter was a difficult one to reach, but I feel sure I will remain a close ally to the company and my colleagues. Having worked closely with Alex and Max, I am confident that they will bring a fresh vision and new vigor to Asia, and help take the business to new heights.” she said in a statement.

Sotheby’s collaboration with NIGO in 2014 and 2019


Meanwhile, the reshuffling in the department will see the arrivals of Alex Branczik and Max Moore from London and New York respectively. 

Branczik will assume the newly created role of Chairman, Modern & Contemporary Art, Asia, and will act as the strategic lead for the department to drive the house’s expansion in the region. He joined Sotheby’s London in 2004 and was named the Head of Contemporary Art, Europe in 2016. Before that, he served as an Equities Analyst at UBS Investment Bank.

Alex Branczik is appointed as Chairman, Modern & Contemporary Art, Asia


Branczik was at the helm of the 2012 sale of Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild from the collection of renowned British guitarist Eric Clapton for £21.3m (US$34.2m) – at the time the record for any work by a living artist.

He also put the works by Asian artists on the radar of international collectors and smashed records for a number of prominent contemporary Chinese artists, including Liu Ye, Liu Xiaodong, Zhang Xiaogang and Liu Wei - among which is Zeng Fanzhi, whose massive canvas fetched HK$180.4m (US$23.2m).

Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild, sold for £21.3m (US$34.2m) 

Zeng Fanzhi, The Last Supper, sold for HK$180.4m (US$23.2m)


Branczik will be joined by Max Moore from New York, who will assume his new role of Head of Contemporary Art Sales, Asia. Moore joined the auction house in 2015. As the current Co-head of Contemporary Art Day Sale in New York, he most recently spearheaded the auction house’s first-ever NFT auction of The Fungible Collection by Pak, which netted US$17m. It was “a ground-breaking NFT initiative of a kind that [Moore] will continue to lead in his new role. His passion and commitment to continued innovation make him well positioned to lead the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art business in the fast-evolving Asian market.” the auction house noted in the statement. 

Max Moore will become Head of Contemporary Art Sales, Asia


“Asia is our highest growth region at Sotheby’s, and there is immense potential for further expansion in Modern and Contemporary Art. As such, it makes sense to send some of our strongest specialists to further invest in the region and ensure global integration. Alex Branczik is one of the most senior and talented specialists at Sotheby’s, and Max has proven himself in New York as a dynamic contemporary art leader and specialist. Together with our strong team already in place in Hong Kong, I am excited to see what they will bring to serve our clients even better going forward.” said Charles F. Stewart, Sotheby’s CEO.

“I’m very excited to welcome Alex and Max to the team in Asia to continue growing our business and reach new heights. While I will certainly miss Yuki, I want to really thank her for her contribution to Sotheby’s and wish her all the best in her next endeavours.” said Nathan Drahi, Managing Director, Sotheby’s Asia.