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Phillips names Olivia Thornton Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
Ms. Thornton joins Phillips following 12 years at Sotheby’s as Senior Director in the Contemporary Art Department. Image courtesy of Phillips.

LONDON.- Phillips announced the appointment of Olivia Thornton as Head of the 20th Century & Contemporary Art Department, Europe. The addition of Ms. Thornton, a well-regarded industry leader, will strengthen Phillips’ team of international specialists and broaden the range of expertise the auction house offers collectors. She will be based in London.

Ms. Thornton joins Phillips following 12 years at Sotheby’s as Senior Director in the Contemporary Art Department. She began her career at Sotheby's in 2006, becoming Head of Day Sales in 2011. During her five years leading the sale, Olivia grew the category by volume and value, building the sale profile through active business getting and sourcing sale-defining art works.

As Head of the Department in Europe, Ms. Thornton will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of Phillips’ 20th Century & Contemporary auctions and cultivating networks among collectors, dealers, curators and others in the art world. She will report to Jean-Paul Engelen and Robert Manley, Worldwide Co-Heads of 20th Century & Contemporary Art.

“We are extremely pleased that Olivia is joining our team,” Mr. Engelen and Mr. Manley said. “She is a well-established and respected expert internationally and will be a transformative addition to our team. By expanding our specialist teams and building a global platform, we are uniquely positioned to work with collectors in a more comprehensive way across all of our company initiatives. And with her significant experience and passion for engaging with collectors and colleagues, Olivia will help us increase our presence across Europe while adding considerable expertise to our London auctions.”

Ms. Thornton played a pivotal role in securing and managing major collections and single owner sales for Sotheby’s, including Damien Hirst’s groundbreaking Beautiful Inside My Head Forever auction in 2008, Artists for the Serpentine in 2011 and Bear Witness in 2015. Since 2017, Ms. Thornton has focused on building her European network, advising clients on acquisitions, consignments and appraisals, and playing a leading role in securing key works of art for sale across Sotheby's Evening and Day sales in Europe and New York.

Prior to joining Sotheby’s, she worked for the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, assisting with exhibitions on Jackson Pollock, Constantin Brancusi and the Pietszch Collection. She assisted with the American Pavilion exhibition of Ed Ruscha in Venice in 2005, and has contributed as a freelance researcher for a publication on British Art. Olivia read Art History at Cambridge University and holds a Master’s Degree from the Courtauld Institute.

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