Five Minutes with Auctioneer Simon de Pury

Words by
Sphere Editors

14th June 2023

Auctioneer Simon de Pury is busy reinventing the way art auctions are structured, using his online platform de Pury to make them more sustainable, and fair to artists and collectors alike. Here de Pury gives SPHERE an insight into his incredible life. 

Simon de Pury, aka “the man with the golden gavel” is best known as an auctioneer, but his reputation as a collector, photographer, curator and sometime DJ is noteworthy too. As de Pury tells SPHERE, for his next online auction on July 26th, he will conduct proceedings as an avatar.

Five Minutes with Auctioneer Simon de Pury

Photography by Luc Castel

Simon de Pury in his signature navy Caraceni suit, is preparing to lead his forthcoming auction, on June 21st, performing duties as an avatar - complete with a motion sensor suit.

My personal style signifier is… A dark blue double-breasted suit by Caraceni, a white shirt by Turnbull & Asser and a dark blue Hermes tie.

When I DJ, my floorfillers are always… So Many Men, So Little Time by Miquel Brown. Girls & Boys by Prince. Boy’s A Liar Pt. 2 by PinkPantheress and Ice Spice.

I was so thrilled when Three Feet High & Rising was finally released on Spotify earlier this year… It was tough to live without being able to listen to one of the most significant hip hop albums ever!

I want to create a new type of auction company - again! I did it with Phillips de Pury by working with living artists, and I am doing it again with my own auction platform de PURY... by making artists and galleries the main beneficiaries.

The concept behind de PURY is… direct access to the best creative minds of our time!

It works like this… works of art are being directly consigned to curated themed auctions by artists and a percentage goes to a charity that is linked to the theme.

Five Minutes with Auctioneer Simon de Pury
Simon de Pury, working the gavel at the Power of Love Gala Awards in 2013, over the years he has raised millions for charity through his work.

I am doing it this way is because…  it is fairer to everyone, more sustainable for shipping, helps charity, connects the artists to the buyer.

I truly believe it’s the future of selling art because… today, technology allows to establish a direct contact between artists and their audience.

Last year, the inaugural WOMEN – Art in Times of Chaos auction got a great response from what feels like the next generation of collectors, and that is what is important to me... while the art market has grown significantly over the years that I have been active in it, I believe it is still infinitesimally small in relation to it’s true potential.

I am essentially very shy, but once I am on the podium it’s a different story… really I chose to conduct auctions as a challenge to my extreme shyness. I am totally sick, blue and green before every single auction, but once am on the podium I am Dr Jekyll morphing into Mr Hyde!

The podium of my next live auction will be me as an avatar..  for me the point of having an avatar is to inject some of the fun and drama of a live auction into online auctions that can be a fairly dry affair. I also erroneously assumed that it meant I didn’t have to run the auctions myself: after all there is not a lady lying in my car when the lovely voice of my GPS tells me to go left or right!  However, while technology moves fast, I still need to put on a silly space suit and direct the auction in real time so that my avatar can replicate my voice and movements!

Over the years I have raised billions for charity (as opposed to an old car which indicates the amount of miles driven my old gavel sadly doesn’t show the exact number of dollars it has raised!)... I do this because the art world is super blessed and unbelievably privileged. It is therefore only normal that we try to give back a little bit! 

My next auctions are ‘CREATE - 21st Century Architecture & Design’ on July 26th. Followed by ‘FIRE – Contemporary Glass & Ceramics’ on August 22nd, KAWAII - Cuteness in Contemporary Art’ on September 20th and finally ‘PARADISE LOST - Nature in Contemporary Art’ on October 4th. 

The neighbourhood I Love in London is… Mayfair. It is a small village with only just over 5000 people living in it yet is the heart of the city with the best galleries, auction companies, restaurants, shops, gardens, cafes, pubs. You can do it all by foot.

My favourite London experience in summer is always … drinking a Pimms No 1 in Chiswick overlooking the Thames

My go-to London restaurant is… Scott’s in Mount Street. The food is delicious and I adore sitting outside and taking in the spectacle of the elegant bypassers 

My preferred London store is…Selfridges’. You can find nearly anything your heart desires.

The music I keep going back to is … the movie soundtracks by Michel Legrand.

The book I’m currently obsessed with is… Laurence Graff's life story. It is the fascinating personal memoir by the King of Diamonds, one of the greatest art collectors and most interesting human beings I have the privilege of knowing.

The grooming staple I never leave home without is… my five pronged comb, i.e. my hand 

The artwork and artist fascinating me most now is… Loie Hollowell. Her works are graphical and sculptural, figurative and abstract all at once while being totally mesmerizing.

This year I have been all over the world already…  the Masai Mara, Kapadokya, Hong Kong, Dubai, London. I don't stop but …’If you rest you rust!’ was the motto of Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza whose collection I had the luck of being the curator in my youth. While am a lazy guy at heart I try to live by it.

Simon de Pury