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Mr Poltimore, who also includes senior director of 19th century art and chairman of Christie’s Australia among his titles, will be leaving Christie’s at the end of May, having worked for the company for 23 years.

He was abroad and unavailable for comment, but a spokesman for Christie’s described Mr Poltimore’s departure as “totally without acrimony”, adding that “there are a lot of people looking at alternative careers at the moment”.