James Zemaitis
Senior Vice President & Head of 20th Century Design, Sotheby's
05:49

When did collecting art first spark your interest?

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From smashed bottle caps to 20th-century design.

James Zemaitis

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.

Transcript

James Zemaitis: I first started collecting smashed bottle caps in the fifth grade. There is a supermarket in the town of Mendham, New Jersey where I grew up. And my mom would get, you know, quite ticked off at me because I would kind of dart in between the station wagons and look for, like, smashed Heineken caps. And so I put together this kind of like very obsessive, in alphabetical order by the beer name, collection of mashed caps. And I considered myself lucky when I convinced my dad to buy like a six-pack of some imported beer so I could take, like, the mint cap and replaced the smashed cap with the mint cap. So bottle caps led to baseball cards; which led to antique bottles, which is still an obsession of mine; collecting insulators from the tops of telephone poles. And it just kind of mutated from there.

1/30/08

 


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