13-11-29-2119NE03A Tobias Meyer.jpg

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Mr Barker, deputy chairman of Sotheby's Europe, is stepping into the breach following what Sotheby's said was a mutual decision between the company and Mr Meyer not to renew the contract for the auction house's Worldwide Head of Contemporary art.

The announcement came just days after Mr Meyer, pictured here, had overseen the most successful New York Contemporary art series in the company's history, totaling $380m. However, this was dwarfed by $691m taken at Christie's for their raft of sales in the same series.

Sotheby's chief executive Bill Ruprecht had only compliments for Mr Meyer, while praising the expertise of the remaining global Contemporary art team.

Nonetheless, few industry opinion formers will consider that the departure is entirely unconnected with the recent upheaval at Sotheby's sparked by hedge fund investor Daniel Loeb, whose public criticism of the company's management style and attempts to oust Mr Ruprecht have so far failed.