John A. Hays

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Deputy Chairman, Christie’s, North and South America

Having been with Christie’s auction house for more than

20 years, John Hays is involved in developing business

strategies for the sale of top American art collections. Hays

joined Christie’s in 1983, and ever since has played an instrumental

role in bringing innovation and record-setting sales

to the field of American furniture and folk art. In addition to

being Deputy Chairman, he is Principal Auctioneer and oversees

the age-old practice of buying and selling things of value

and interest for collectors. Mr. Hays has orchestrated and

presided over a record-breaking series of Americana sales.

How does an all-American boy end up selling to the eclectic

and elite collectors of the world? He set his mind to it.

John A. Hays

You Can Do Anything If You Set Your Mind to It

If you know you can get out from the bottom—you won’t be

afraid to try your moves on the top.

Iwas lucky. I came from a family that believed their children

could do anything they wanted—no matter how unrealistic

the idea or far-fetched it sounded. In some ways this made it

difficult, as we really believed we could do anything and for

a brief moment I thought I would like to be a sculptor. But

looking back on the experience, I remember how seriously

everyone took me and the awful clay mounds that I created.

Still, my effort did make me realize that confidence was everything.

If people believed in you, you believed in yourself.

Source: Printed with permission from John A. Hays.

I went to Phillips Exeter Academy and made the varsity

wrestling team in the 10th grade. The coach, Ted Seabrooke,

was a former “Big Ten” wrestling champ from Oklahoma

A&M. He had a gift for making skinny 130 pound kids feel like

they could beat anybody in this sport—and we did. He used

to say “If you KNOW you can get out from the bottom—you

won’t be afraid to try your moves on the top.” And so we

worked hard at that strategy and ended up winning matches

against kids far stronger than we were but who didn’t have

the confidence we had! I remember being in the finals of a

tournament where I was behind 10 to 1. The other guy got a

little careless and I got free and pinned him with only a few

seconds left. Never give up!

I went to Kenyon College (a bit “outside the box” since

my family traditionally went to Harvard University). I fell in

love with the Art Department and one thing led to another. I

actually got a job in the art world when I graduated. Today, at

Christie’s, I am a principal auctioneer for the firm, but I think

of those days wrestling at Exeter whenever I step into the

podium to take a sale: confident that I can run a sale no matter

who I’m in front of, believing that you can do anything if

you set your mind to it.