James announced he was stepping down from Barclay’s in October after four-and-a-half years at the bank without a job to go to.
In the new Christie's role he replaces Toby Usnik, who becomes chief of corporate social responsibility and senior international director for the Americas. Based in London, James will take up the position at the beginning of January, reporting to Christie's CEO Steven Murphy.
Murphy said: 'Communications is a vital part of the activities of any company, particularly here at Christie’s. We are fortunate to have in Howell someone of great experience, with a strong reputation and relationships throughout the media and beyond, as well as an individual who has a genuine and long held interest in the arts.'
James' remit includes all comms activities and media relations for the auction house, with regional corporate comms heads reporting directly to him.
The 246-year-old auction house has offices in 32 countries, including ten salesrooms and global headquarters based in London.
James joined Barclays in 2008 as the global financial crisis began to take effect. He told PRWeek 'I decided during the summer that, after four-and-a-half years, it was time to move on. I joined Barclays at the height of the financial crisis knowing it would be an adventure, and so it has proved.’
Previously, he was the Cabinet Office’s permanent secretary for government comms. He was also a director and founding partner at Brown Lloyd James and political secretary to the then prime minister Sir John Major. He has also held senior roles at Cable & Wireless and the BBC.