Simon de Pury stands in front of Gauguin’s ‘When Will You Marry?’

Anyone who’s in any way associated with the arts knows the name Simon de Pury – one of the most charismatic and pivotal figures in that arena. Simon, a multi-lingual Swiss art auctioneer, collector, DJ and artist, is often referred to as the ‘Mick Jagger of art auctions’ due to his masterful and exciting style of auctioneering. In recent years Simon has appeared in several television programs and films, most notably the Bravo network reality series ‘Work Of Art: The Next Great Artist’. His book The Auctioneer: Adventures in the Art Trade was published in Spring 2016 and his excellent photography is due to be exhibited at the Leica Gallery in London during March 2020. Here, Simon gives as an insight into his lifestyle – with intriguing threads leading around the globe through London, France, New York, Tokyo and Los Angeles….

ArtBasel; Natalia Vodianova at The Naked Heart Foundation Ball

C&B: “Which international art fair do you consider to be the most important, and why?

SDP: “ArtBasel in Basel. There isn’t a week that passes without at least one art fair taking place somewhere. I just attended the 49th edition of ArtBasel and I am proud, or rather old enough, to have attended every single one since the first!  ArtBasel Miami or Hong Kong, Frieze London, NY or LA, Tefaf Maastricht or NY, the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris are all great fairs. There are many more I enjoy visiting but ArtBasel in Basel is the fair for which most galleries keep their very best works which makes it each year an eagerly anticipated pleasure ride!”

C&B: “How many auctions do you conduct a year, approximately?

SDP: “This year alone I am conducting 36 benefit auctions around the world including the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the Elton John Aids Foundation, amfAR, MTV staying alive Foundation, Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation, the Naked Heart Foundation, the Fondation Beyeler, the New Museum and many more. The recent United Artists for Europe auction in London was the result of 33 top artists living and working in Europe who expressed their support for the positive things Europe has brought to us at the initiative of Bernard-Henri Lévy. It heightened the awareness that we can’t just sit back and watch how Europe is being torn apart without doing something about it…”

C&B: “Out of all the pieces of art you have sold, which has been your personal favourite, and which has been the most expensive?

SDP: “My favorite is always the next one! The most expensive work I’ve sold so far is Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian masterwork ‘When Will You Marry?’ which changed hands for $210m five years ago…”

C&B: “Your favourite cities in the world?

SDP: “Tokyo and LA”

C&B: “Can you speak Japanese, in addition to all your other languages?

SDP: “I’ve kept a rudimentary knowledge of spoken Japanese that stems from the time I studied the techniques of Sumie and Nihonga at the Tokyo Academy of Arts some light years ago. I took my two daughters on a holiday to Japan this spring which allowed me to practice it a bit…”

Chateau Marmont; André Balasz

C&B: “Which would be your favourite international hotel, and why?

SDP: “I love the Chateau Marmont in LA. It was Helmut Newton who introduced me to it; it was a backdrop of some of his most iconic images. André Balasz, it’s owner, has the magic touch – every one of his hotels is different but they all share the coolest vibe!”

C&B: “Who was the most interesting person you met in Hollywood while filming for Bravo?

SDP: “Sarah Jessica Parker was the producer of Bravo’s ‘Work of Art – the Next Great Artist’; her appearances on the set were mesmerizing as she oozes irresistible charm…”

Le Colombe D’Or, St Paul De Vence

C&B: “Which are your favourite ‘art’ hotels?

SDP: “The Colombe d’Or in St Paul de Vence remains for me the prototype of the best that can happen when you marry great art with unique surroundings. The Rosewood Hong Kong which opened this year is the most striking 21st century example; the minute you arrive a majestic Henry Moore bronze sculpture welcomes you and top works from Adrian Cheng’s private collection further enhance your stay in this outstanding and super elegant new hotel…”

C&B: “And your favourite restaurant around the world?”

SDP: “The Kronenhalle in Zurich is an institution that demonstrates that no culinary experience can be better than if you can share it surrounded by great art and ideally great friends. My favourite chef is Masayoshi Takayama; his Kappo Masa restaurant that is the result of his collaboration with the world’s greatest art dealer Larry Gagosian is a must for any food and art lover…”

Masayoshi Takayama; Kappo Masa restaurant in New York

C&B: “Which cocktail bar or private members club around the world do you like the most?

SDP: “My attitude to clubs is a bit that of Groucho Marx who said ‘I would never want to be part of a club that would accept me as a member!’ That being said I love 5 Hertford Street in London – that is so chic. As a teenager my favourite cocktail was a ‘Cuba Libre’, which is the combination of Bacardi Rum and Coca Cola; today I prefer vodka on the rocks. I figured out that only drinks that are colourless and look like water don’t give you any hangover!”

LouLou’s at 5 Hertford Street in London; The Kronenhalle restaurant in Zurich

Images taken by Simon: Castello Di Guarene; The amfAR event; setting of the Life Ball

C&B: “You take some amazing photographs on your travels – what brand of camera do you use to take your own images?

SDP: “For Instagram I’m snapping all my posts with my iPhone. For exhibitions of my own photography I use my Leica camera; I’m looking forward to the exhibition of my new work that will take place next March at the Leica Gallery in London…”

Simon De Pury; A. Caraceni

C&B: “You are always impeccably turned out – who’s your preferred tailor?”

SDP: “I’ve been going to A. Caraceni in Milano for most of my adult life; I love the timeless classic feel of his suits which have become something of a uniform for me. Some friends tease me that they believe I have been wearing the same suit for the past 45 years!” 

C&B: “What type of music do you prefer to listen to?”

SDP: “I’m obsessed with music and listen to it as much as I can. For my activities as DJ, I have to be current with the latest sounds but my ultimate musical hero is Prince; he was a total genius and virtuoso on any instrument…”

Prince in action; Blow-Up promotional poster

C&B: “Your favourite movie of all time?”

SDP: “Blow Up by Michelangelo Antonioni was a visual shock that shaped my youth. Amongst more recent movies, I think I must have watched the opening sequence of La La Land with the gorgeous music by Justin Hurwitz at least 35 times!”

C&B: “What would comprise of your perfect day, and where would you be?

SDP: “I hate routine and so the best day for me is one with novel and completely unexpected experiences. I love visiting studios of artists so I guess that would have to be part of a perfect day. The greatest joy however is when I collect my 8 year old daughter at school…”

C&B: “What would you like your legacy to be?

SDP: “A line in the sand that’s about to be washed over by the sea…”

Details from Le Colombe D’Or

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