Obituary: David Bathurst
Wednesday 23 September 1992
DAVID BATHURST, the former Chairman of the auction house Christie Manson & Woods, had a charm and ebullient personality which were ideally suited to expansionism in the 1980s; he was keen to take Christie's away from its old stuffy image.
Bathurst was educated at Eton, where he opened the batting for the XXII (second eleven) and his average far exceeded those of his peers in the XI; at 15 he started bobsleighing on the Cresta Run, a family tradition - his father Viscount Bledisloe was President. Bathurst went to Magdalen College, Oxford, and did his National Service in the 12th Royal Lancers, after which he studied at the Carnegie Institute, part of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. His introduction to the modern-art world came through his time at the New London Gallery, part of Marlborough Fine Art, whence he went to Christie's in 1963 to start the Impressionist and Modern Picture Department at King Street, becoming a director at the age of 29 in 1966.
During the Sixties he travelled extensively in the United States, and in 1977 he went to New York to set up the Impressionist and Modern Picture department and took over as Chairman of Christie's New York the next year. His vigorous outlook was a crucial factor in establishing Christie's in the US market.
John Lumley, a colleague at Christie's with whom David Bathurst shared an office for 11 years, said, 'He should get a lot of credit for starting the Impressionist and Modern Picture department here and being, I would think, individually the single most important member of the team which developed Christie's auctions in New York. He was imaginative, forward-looking, popular, and always willing to delegate.'
'He was, very courageous and brave,' David Nickerson of Mallett Bourdon House said, 'if a little impetuous; added to which he had a great sense of humour. I remember once, when I found a picture which I was convinced was an early Monet I rang his house and left a message with the nanny who told him, 'Mr Nickerson rang to say he had got a lot of money for you.' '
Bathurst's highly successful career at Christie's culminated in his appointment as Chairman of Christie, Manson & Woods in succession to Jo Floyd in 1984; he subsequently resigned from Christie's in 1987 as a result of the Cristallina case. On leaving Christie's he set up the St James's Art Group, which deals in Impressionist and modern paintings and sculptures, together with two other former Christie's colleagues. He pursued his many interests which included contemporary paintings and bookbindings, the opera (about which he was never too serious) and Chelsea FC, whose games he attended regularly.
He loved Scotland and shooting grouse and died of a heart attack while out on the hill.
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