The Auctioneer: Adventures in the Art Trade Paperback – 6 Apr 2017
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Gloriously indiscreet (his book begins with a high-speed tour of his complicated relationships), this is a wickedly entertaining account of a milieu ripe in gossip and glamour. * Daily Mail * The Auctioneer dishes about the tycoons, rock stars and royalty who play in this high-priced game. Simon de Pury is an art world insider who has been called the "Mick Jagger" of auctions...de Pury is known for bringing the rush of a sports event to the auction room. He's a theatrical, sophisticated salesman. * NPR * Auctioneer Simon de Pury's memoir reveals a life of poetic extravagance. It's schizophrenic, poetic, exquisitely rendered, farcical, and obscene... This memoir is as snappy and swaggering as the prestissimo speech acts the author is world famous for performing with gavel in hand. * ArtNet News * The number of ways of describing the auctioneer, curator, dealer, DJ, reality TV star and jet-setter Simon de Pury is almost endless: the Mick Jagger of art auctions, or "the man with the golden gavel", according to a BBC documentary. A close acquaintance describes him as "Peter Pan" - venturesome, mercurial, ever-youthful. * Financial Times * A memoir full of gossip, anecdotes, and tales of the very, very rich... De Pury engages in unabashed name-dropping and delivers plenty of juicy tidbits about some of the world's 1 percent. However, this is also the story of a man wholly dedicated to his profession, a jet-setter before the jet age... it's an enjoyable book that lets us live vicariously in the haut monde. * Kirkus Review * Eye-opening memoir... lively account of his flashy career and today's soaring art market, revealing a jet-setting, powerful, and private club of elites who buy, sell, and collect the world's most expensive art... the book provides an interesting glimpse into a world of artists, collectors, and dealers in which 'the call of the gavel was the call of the wild'. * Publishers Weekly * Rarely do we find experts capable of covering as many fields of expertise as Simon de Pury. A visionary, he has a taste for risk supported by a remarkable understanding of the market for private, public and digital art. His charm combines with his enthusiasm to create a personality that no buyer can resist. -- Diana Widmaier Picasso, art historian Simon's boundless energy is unparalleled. He transforms the auction house from a marketplace to a rock arena. -- Sarah Jessica Parker Simon de Pury is an aristocrat in the best sense of the word. His mission? is to bring beauty to the people. This book is a wild ride that will get you hooked on art. -- Russell Simmons The Mick Jagger of auctioneers. * Guardian about Simon de Pury * He has the energy and power of an Enzo Ferrari, the elegance of a Maserati. -- Lap Elkann about Simon de Pury The world's most celebrated auctioneer. * Harper's Bazaar about Simon de Pury * His professional connections and friendships with the rich and famous collectors are extensive and fascinating. In The Auctioneer he affords us colourful, glittering glimpses into lives lived at a grand and opulent level, drawing us into the extraordinary, often fickle world of art in all its facets. This book fairly crackles with excitement and energy. * Readers Digest *
In this groundbreaking work, the legendary Simon de Pury offers an intimate look at the art world and its most famous collectors.See all Product description
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How do I know this? Well, I have been an auctioneer for 30 years and once worked under the same roof as SdeP at Sothebys although he wouldn't know me (he flew far far higher than I, obviously). From an auctioneer's viewpoint, is this a good book? It reads like 40 years of self-congratulation with, it seems, but one blip when he hosted a disastrous sale in 2002. Otherwise, there is a pervasive sense of `aren't I brilliant, I mean really brilliant?` that grates a little. There is a lot of space given to his extravagant globe-trotting years working with Heini Thyssen (a voracious collector, allegedly buying one picture a day - and these were highly expensive pictures too); a lot of pretty wanton name-dropping (some pages get tiresomely clogged with names of immensely rich aristos and bankers); a plentiful selection of monstrous prices paid for art (eg $40m for a charity auction hosted by Leonardo di Caprio); and a sense of an incredibly busy life.
Sounds good? Not quite. Many of his anecdotes lack much sting and are related for self-aggrandisement; SdeP's love of the super-rich lifts this book above `normal` auctioneering into a sphere that few could ever hope to understand; and there is virtually no sense of understanding why people pay $40m for a Cezanne. We are just meant to accept that there is an inevitability that multi-millionaires will eventually develop the need to acquire art. A little insight into what motivates these people would be interesting.
The most surprising revelation for me would pass without notice for many, I expect. Having fought off determined opposition to secure for himself the purchase of a pair of Jean Besnard vases at a grand auction in New York, I was startled to read that an insider at Christies told SdeP who his adversary had been. It was Louise MacBain, at that point SdeP's arch rival and former business (and love) partner. Auctioneers are privileged to know a great deal about sellers, buyers and bidders: it is an inviolable rule that this is kept confidential as you never know how a slip of the tongue may rebound. In addition, of course, business conducted in confidence should forever remain just that. For a `Christies insider` to vouchsafe a very delicate detail about an underbidder is bad practice; to pass that to a man who was in the midst of a personal and professional battle with the underbidder was reckless. Had SdeP chosen to act upon it (he didn't but did not forebear to tell it in this book), it would have breached a core principle of trust so I'm surprised that SdeP chose to relate it. had he wished to do so, he could have said that `it subsequently became apparent to me who I was bidding against` and the tittle-tattle of the art world would have absorbed all the blame without any impunity. I mention this because I do not think it reflects well upon SdeP or Christies or MacBain and it stains slightly the impressive professionalism of those three protagonists - so why tell more than was needed?
As SdeP recounts his moves into ever higher circles of the auction world - his founding of an auction house to rival the Sothebys/Christies duopoly is good - he seems to be moving further and further from the auction world that most people reading this book would be able to understand. Now I know why I am only the second reviewer: people who move in such exalted circles and buy art for the price of a hospital wing do not write reviews on Amazon. They are too busy rubbing expensively-tailored shoulders with other billionaires to ever think about a book review. I hope for SdeP's sake that he has not received too many complaints of being indiscreet and yet his indiscretions are too often just a little bland. If there is to be a second volume that tells more of his exploits from 45 years in the art world, I hope it is a little more approachable for the common man. For that's what most of us are.