Tuesday, 6 December 2011
Here's a copy of the interview I did with art auctioneer supremo Simon de Pury last week, when I was out in Miami for Art Basel Miami Beach. I've uploaded it here as House Seven, the site I wrote the piece for, is only accessible to members of the Soho House Group. And I know most of you think I just swan around at art events getting tipsy on the free booze. But here's the proof that sometimes I actually do a little bit of work. And there will be a more comprehensive piece on the art fair itself on RWD's website soon.
AN INTERVIEW WITH SIMON DE PURY
SOHO BEACH HOUSE, POSTED: 3 DECEMBER 2011
Soho House Berlin member Simon de Pury is Chairman and Chief Auctioneer of Phillips de Pury & Company. House Seven caught up with him in Miami to talk about art fairs and the frictions between galleries and auction houses.
What did you think of the 2011 Art Basel Miami Beach?
The quality is very, very, good and everything surrounding it makes it very agreeable for collectors and art lovers to come to Miami. Mostly because the local collectors, the Rubells or the de la Cruzs or the Bramans, are so open about welcoming everybody to their houses each year. They make a great effort of showing something really worthwhile that in itself makes the trip to Miami worthwhile. The only danger is that it can become a victim of its own success; there is just so much going on, so many events happening simultaneously. For every hour of the day you have to pick between 10 different possibilities and whenever you have a saturation of things to do, it can be a problem.
What made you choose Soho Beach House for the Phillips de Pury party?
Well Soho House is a great venue and I love the Cecconi’s restaurant in the garden space. Also, it’s a relatively new place in Miami so it was fun to do it there. We had a seated dinner – trying to pull that off with the notoriously undisciplined art crowd is quite a challenge in itself! We were around 80 people over capacity, but somehow it all worked out and was terrific.
So what’s your favourite art fair?
I was born in Basel and I have been to every single Art Basel so I have a particular sentimental involvement with that fair. I like it because you find the best of the classic works as well as the best of the young emerging artists. But there’s so much happening and if you’re in the business, you have to follow it all in the same way that you have to follow all the biennials, and all the auctions happening everywhere.
Won’t this lead to a time clash for various art fairs?
The art market is a travelling circus that sets up its tent every week in a different place. But you can’t do it all, so it’s a competitive situation between art fairs. You have some fairs that really grow and develop and some fairs that may be temporarily less important and create less of an impact but everything evolves constantly.
Auction houses are participating more in art fairs, making some of the galleries nervous. What are your thoughts on the tensions between the two?
The primary market needs the secondary market, the secondary market needs the primary market, the auctions need the galleries, the galleries needs the auctions, everybody needs everybody, and it’s a false debate to say auctions versus galleries because whenever you sell a work privately, the only way you can justify the price is by similar works that were sold publically at auction. You need that public barometer. During Frieze, you have great contemporary auctions taking place during the same week. So the bigger the magnet is for what’s happening in a given week at a given place, the better it is for all the participants.
And lastly, you also DJ – do you need similar skills to that of an auctioneer?
I find it very similar because in most cases you want to be attuned to the wavelength, same wavelength as your audience, and to create excitement. And so if you’re a good auctioneer you’ll create excitement in the sales room and so obtain good high prices, and if you’re a good DJ, you equally try to create excitement on the dance floor and achieve getting people dancing. While I play a bit of current house music, I love to mix it up with dance tracks from any period and occasionally bring in something totally unexpected like a piece of yodelling or swing from the 1920s, trying to surprise the audience, but still getting them on the dance floor.