Obituary: Jo Floyd

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The Independent Online
IN THE AUTUMN of 1946, Christie's, then in exile at Derby House from its blitzed "Great Rooms" in St James's, saw the arrival of two recently demobilised young soldiers as recruits to the Enquiry Counter, then so named, in the hopes of proving themselves worthy members of the near two- centuries-old fine art auctioneers. One of these, Richard Kingsett, subsequently joined Agnew's, the other was Jo Floyd, cousin of Sir Henry Floyd, a longstanding partner in the firm.

Born in 1923, son of Lt-Col Arthur Floyd, Jo was educated at Eton, leaving at 18 to join the King's Royal Rifle Corps, in which he served until the end of the Second World War. Tall, handsome and with a relaxed and warm- heartedly amusing nature, he was speedily absorbed, after joining the furniture department, into the firm's atmosphere which then suggested, perhaps, more of the character of a country family firm of lawyers than a dominating element of the English fine art trade.

He was also rapidly assimilated into the confidential part of the business, that of valuations, whether for probate, family division or insurance, with its constant contact with the "ancient regime" in their ancestral homes, where his courtier-like charm made many friends of the firm's clients.

In 1954, three of us, Floyd, Guy Hannen of the third generation in the firm and myself, were made directors of what had been, since 1940, a private company, Christie, Manson & Woods, under the chairmanship of Robert Wylie Lloyd, with Sir Alec Martin and Sir Henry Floyd as joint managing directors. This embodiment of the firm remained so until 1958 when the older partners were bought out and the firm reconstituted under the chairmanship of I.O. (Peter) Chance.

At this point, Floyd became head of the furniture department, in which post he conducted many important sales as well as being vice-chairman, succeeding Chance on the latter's retirement in 1974 as chairman.

The previous year Christie's had "gone public" in a highly successful stock-market launch as "Christie's International" and in 1977 was to open its New York salerooms in Park Avenue. Floyd remained chairman of the now rapidly growing world-wide company until handing over to Lord Carrington in 1988 and stayed on the board till his final retirement in 1992.

In his off-duty hours Floyd's greatest pleasure and achievement was on the golf field. With his height and fine physique he proved a natural and successful player, whether in Norfolk on the dunes at Brancaster near his parents' home or at Augusta in America when free from New York concerns.

Travelling abroad with him on business assignments was an amusement and a delight. I remember, for instance, a fog- delayed trip from London to Detroit on the way to the preliminaries for the remarkable 1970 sale of the famous Mrs Dodge's collection - then the largest collection of works of art ever brought from America to England to be sold. It culminated as our party drove on the freeway from the airport with the breaking of the fan belt of the hired car, by which time, after all the preceding delays, we were reduced to tearful hilarity.

On another occasion, in South Africa, our client and very considerate host sent us to see the Kimberley "Great Hole" and Patrick Lindsay, our fellow partner, and I discovered that Floyd suffered from intense vertigo and, when we took the lift to the viewing platform over the hole, found him quaking at the lift-gate at the top and unable to put a foot forward. We all have our Achilles' heel, and such a memory serves only to highlight the 50-year memory and companionship of a truly happy partnership.

John Anthony Floyd, auctioneer: born East Dereham, Norfolk 12 May 1923; chairman, Christie, Manson & Woods 1974-85, Christie's International 1976- 88; married 1948 Margaret Rosselli (two daughters); died London 20 February 1998.

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