Jussi Pylkkänen

Jussi Pylkkänen during his last day on the rostrum at Christie’s.

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The Old Master sale in King Street on December 7 ended with a standing ovation for the Christie’s veteran who has been with the firm for 38 years.

Pylkkänen has sold many of the most valuable lots at Christie’s over the last three decades and no auctioneer’s gavel has knocked down more overall value in the modern market. His career highlights include Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi which sold at $400m in New York in 2017 - the highest price for any artwork sold at auction.

He also auctioned the famed collections of Elizabeth Taylor (2011), Peggy and David Rockefeller (2018) and Paul G Allen (2022), the latter being the most expensive single-owner collection ever sold.

Pylkkänen, 60, comes from a Finnish family. His father moved to England in the 1960s where the younger Pylkkänen attended school and later went to Oxford University. He joined Christie’s in the mid-1980s, starting in the print department before becoming a specialist in 19th and 20th century art. After being appointed senior director of 19th century art, he then became director of Christie’s Impressionist and Modern art department in 1995. Following a 10-year spell as president of Christie’s Europe, Middle East and Russia, he was given the title of global president of Christie’s in 2014.

After selling the final lot at the Old Master sale he was presented with a gift on behalf of colleagues: a cartoon showing him on the Christie’s rostrum with a portrait on the wall saying “Hang on, I thought I was the icon round here.”

His final auction came later in the same evening when he conducted the opening section of the dedicated sale of Rembrandt prints from the Sam Josefowitz collection. His wife and children were present at the front row of the saleroom to watch him sign off from the rostrum for the final time.