Hannah O'Leary

  • Senior Director | Head of Modern and Contemporary African Art


Hannah O’Leary first joined Sotheby’s in 2005, initially working in the Dublin and Melbourne offices. In 2006 she joined Bonhams in London, where she helped pioneer the first international auctions of South African Art and Modern & Contemporary African Art, becoming Head of Department in 2010. With 10 years’ experience in this field, and having overseen record-breaking sales in both categories, she was delighted to return to Sotheby’s in 2016 to further develop this burgeoning market. Since then Sotheby’s has consistently dominated this market, breaking over 200 world record prices artists from the continent, including Marlene Dumas ($6.3million), Julie Mehretu ($5.6million), Lisa Brice ($3,166,000), Njideka Akunyili Crosby ($3.4million), Michael Armitage ($1.5million), and William Kentridge ($1.5million).

 Hannah maintains close relationships with private collectors and public institutions alike, often advising on their collections and acquisitions. In 2022 she raised over £2million for institutions supporting African artists including the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos; Norval Foundation, Cape Town; The International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP), New York; and Brandywine Workshop and Archives (BWA), Philadelphia. She has facilitated many private sales and exhibition loans worldwide, including acting as international consultant to the South African National Gallery. She has written on the subject of Contemporary African Art for various publications and lectured at events and institutions internationally, including the Royal Academy London, the Haus der Kunst Munich, the Kunsthaus Graz, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea Milano, the Perez Art Museum Miami, Spelman College Atlanta, Ithaca College, the Art Summit Nigeria, AKAA Also Known As Africa art fair Paris, Zurich University, the FT Africa Summit, The Art Business Conference, Milken Global Conference, the Sotheby’s Institute and the Venice Biennale. She a Council Member of the Royal Africa Society in the UK and a Trustee of the Norval Foundation in South Africa.

She holds a Master’s degree in History of Art with Cultural Anthropology from Glasgow University.

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