Education: University of Vienna
Residence: Midtown West, NY
How much better does it get once you’ve been deemed “The James Bond of the art market”? Tobias Meyer, the worldwide head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, is still finding out. But even from his rosy view, he said to John Colapinto of The New Yorker: “I still think to this very day that I have to work very, very hard to stay where I am. I’m constantly reminded that it is not permanent.”
So where, exactly, is he, and what is this position that he feels is so precarious and worthy of such devoted defense? Indeed, Meyer is the head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s. But what is truly remarkable is the speed and grace with which he rocketed to the top, and the uniquely revered fashion with which he inhabits his position.
Meyer credits his mother for his interest in art, saying “She had an amazing emotional eye. She would walk always toward the most emotional painting.”
In 1981, upon his father’s suggestion Meyer enrolled in a yearlong course run by Christie’s in London. Fresh out of high school, Meyer’s acceptance into the program was an exception in a pool of college-educated colleagues.
Following his graduation from the University of Vienna in 1988, Meyer got a job at Christie’s in London and spent three “suicidal months” as a graduate trainee in the clock department. Even after a move into the contemporary art department he remained frustrated: “I was in the basement, cataloguing mediocre paintings.” It wouldn’t be the case for long. In 1992, Lucy Mitchell-Innes, then the worldwide head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, saw in him untapped potential, and hired him to be the head of the contemporary-art department in London. In 1997, at the age of thirty-four, he was promoted to his current position as worldwide head of contemporary art. Here he would affect many notable sales. One of the most extraordinary was in 2004, when Meyer brought down the gavel on Picasso’s Boy With Pipe for $104 million.
Rarely do you see such a meteoric rise in the art world. His close friend the painter John Currin says of him, “He’s a real connoisseur. That’s actually not as common as you might think in the art world. He, more than almost anybody I know, is a real aesthete.”
There are myriad more examples of laud showered on Meyer, but these are sufficient in illustrating the charm and excellence that has propelled him to his current station. He lives with his partner Mark Fletcher on the 66th floor of the Time Warner Center in Midtown Mahattan.
Image via Format