Gary Metzner is the head of Sotheby's Chicago office, one of many expert regional teams operating around the world. Over the years, Metzner has worked with Chicago-based museums, businesses, non-profit organizations and individual clients, helping bring revered artworks to market or facilitating sales between top collectors. Here, we ask Metzner to discuss art, his defining Sotheby's moments and how he got his start.
How did you get started at Sotheby’s?
I joined Sotheby’s 23 years ago, when the auction house acquired Leslie Hindman auctioneers – where, at the time, I was working as a Director of Fine Art. Today, I’m honored to be leading that same office.
“Art has been both my vocation and avocation.”
How did you get interested in art?
I always liked art as a kid. I went to Indiana University, initially to study business – but during my sophomore year I took one art history class and was hooked. From there, I went to graduate school for art history, and landed my first job working in a gallery. Art has been both my vocation and avocation.
Do you collect yourself?
Yes, and right now we are actually looking for a new home, as we’re completely out of wall space. We’ve been quite lucky to have collected a few artists early on, including Alex Katz and Theaster Gates. Our latest acquisition is by Ayana Jackson, from Mariane Ibrahim Gallery here in Chicago; we always try to support the local galleries. Ayana is set to have an exhibition at the National Museum of African Art – unfortunately it was postponed due to the pandemic, but we’re eager to see it open and hope to travel to Washington, D.C. to see it in person.
What are some of your defining moments at Sotheby’s?
I’ve had quite a few defining moments at Sotheby’s, and hope there are many more to come. I'm very proud of the Kerry James Marshall that we sold on behalf of the Chicago Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA); it sold to Sean Combs for $21.1 million and is still the most expensive artwork sold by an African American artist. I’m very lucky to know Kerry James and his wife and it ended up being a very positive experience for all, including the MPEA.
How does the Sotheby’s Chicago office work directly with clients and consignors?
We are on the ground here in Chicago and our team is composed of experienced industry experts – two factors that put us in an excellent position to work with local sellers and consignors. Our SVP of Trust and Estates, Cassie Spencer Gavin, has been with the office as long as I have (23 years); between my background in fine arts and her expertise in estates, there is no collection we can’t handle. The other members of our team include valuation manager Carrie Reyes Murphy and Shipping Coordinator Stephanie Loria; altogether, Sotheby’s Chicago office with support from our global team, is well-equipped to provide full-service assistance to our clients.
In my time at the Sotheby’s Chicago office, I’m proud to have helped raise over 25 million for charities as an auctioneer – and as a USPAP certified appraiser, I’ve completed countless gift appraisals over the years. More recently, we’ve helped Chicago-based organizations move their live events online, to accommodate for social distancing during these challenging times. And while online auctions are increasingly popular, I’ve also hosted a number of virtual paddle raises in recent months. I sit on a number of boards, including the Chicago High School for the Arts, and try to use my experience in the arts and art business to mentor young people and provide guidance where it is needed the most.