James Zemaitis began his auction career in 1996 at Christie's, where he worked for three years in the 20th Century Design department. Prior to his arrival at Sotheby's in 2003, Mr. Zemaitis organized a series of groundbreaking sales at Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg, where he was Worldwide Head of 20th-21st Century Design.
From his record-breaking $21.5 million sale total in December 2003 and the landmark sale of the Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to the National Trust, to our December 2006 offering of New Life for the Noble Tree: The Dr. Arthur & Evelyn Krosnick Collection of Masterworks by George Nakashima, Sotheby's has raised the market to new heights, commanded extraordinary attention from the press and attracted a host of new collectors.
In the past five years, Mr. Zemaitis has been profiled in The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine, House & Garden, Art & Auction, Wallpaper and Cargo. In May 2006, he was voted "one of the 200 most influential New Yorkers" in New York magazine. Mr. Zemaitis serves on the Boards of The Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, and Manitoga: The Russel Wright Design Center, Garrison, New York.
Mr. Zemaitis received a B.A. in Art History from Oberlin College. He pursued graduate work in American Architectural History at Rutgers University.
Porochista Khakpour: It’s a very addictive process. And I myself, I’m not a formal auctioneer. I have done . . . I actually have done quite a bit of charity auctioneering, but charity auctioneering is a lot different than real auctioneering because there you’re working with numbers and you have to make tight decisions. And I’m a little too dyslexic for that, and so my goodbye to my auctions is when I’m in the room next to the auctioneers looking out over the room . . . it’s always a series of . . . For the most part I’m fortunate to say it’s been . . . it’s been, you know . . . the market has been very good to me and we’ve had quite a good run. But you still have your moments of crushing low. You still have that moment when you’ve put your heart and soul into selling a piece. And unlike a gallerist who can do an exhibition; and you can have that exhibition up for two and a half months; and you can work on a client and say, over a period of time, get that client to think with you on a piece; you know it has to happen in that second at auction, so it’s like it’s either gonna fly or it’s gonna bomb. And you just gotta get used to the bomb because once in a while it’s gonna happen.
Recorded on: 1/30/08