As the CEO of the Phillips auction house, Edward Dolman has one of the confounding challenges in the art business baked into his very job description: How to make the perennially third-string auctioneer a viable contender against the entrenched international Goliaths of Christie’s and Sotheby’s? Fortunately, he also has one of the most impressive resumés in the business as well—and a great deal of insight into the competition, gleaned from years of working for the enemy.
Having famously started his career working as hired muscle in the storeroom of Christie’s London, Dolman spent 27 years working his way up the ladder at the world’s top auction house, eventually reaching the post of CEO and finally becoming chairman in 2010. Then, in 2011, at the tail end of the global financial crisis, he surprised everyone by leaving Christie’s to go work for the Qatar Museums Authority, led by Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the young, forward-thinking chair of the QMA and the daughter of Qatar’s then-ruling emir. After three years of guiding that Gulf state through one of the most ambitious cultural buildups in modern times, Dolman returned to New York, this time lured by the chance to make an outside run at the auction-market hegemony he once led, this time as the head of Phillips.
To better understand just how Dolman hopes to overthrow what he calls “the ancient duopoly,” artnet News’s editor-in-chief Andrew Goldstein sat down with the veteran auction hand in his comfortable corner office on 57th and Park Avenue to discuss his strategy, and how he came to hone it. Read more