Simon de Pury

The renowned curator and auctioneer speaks at Rosewood London on November 16

Swiss aristocrat Simon de Pury has long been a leading figure in the global art market—a distinction that can be credited, in great part, to his endless curiosity. In 2012, he surprised the art world by resigning from his position as chairman and chief auctioneer of Phillips de Pury & Company to explore a bit of everything: brokering private art deals, leading auctions at private galas, curating shows, deejaying parties, and serving as one of Rosewood’s Curators, offering wonderful insights on his hometown of London. On November 16, he will participate on a panel—along with Martin Brudnizki, Nicky Haslam, and Mariella Frostrup—in Rosewood’s inaugural Conversation series at Rosewood London. Here, he discusses his latest venture, the state of the art market, and where in the world the most exciting art is popping up.

ROSEWOOD: You’ve just launched an online auction platform called de Pury. Is that where the art world is headed?

SIMON DE PURY: I’ve always been fascinated by how the technological revolution is going to impact the art market. Of all the markets that we know, the art market has possibly been the most resistant to it. Of course you have eBay, which is the biggest auction platform in the world, but aside from that nobody has fully figured out at this point how to do deal with the digital world.

RW: How is de Pury approaching it?

SDP: Even in the future, people will need to see the work in person. The answer, which is what we’re doing, is really a hybrid solution, where we have all the information—all the cataloguing and interviews with the artists and specialists, and, eventually, the capability of messaging with them—on the website, as well as a place where the works can be physically inspected. So often, even if you are a professional, you will see something that looks beautiful in a catalogue or on the Internet, but in person the experience is very different. 

RW: There has been a lot of buzz lately about digital art. Do you see that as the next big thing in the contemporary art market?

SDP: The technological revolution has allowed artists many more ways of expressing themselves. You now have a range of artists who use the Internet to create work. But what is fascinating is that with this widening of possibilities, there has been a return-to-basics movement, in which artists are going back to timeless techniques like painting, sculpture, or ceramics. There’s been a real revival in ceramic art that is incredible. Technology has had a double effect.

RW: Does travel influence you when sourcing new work? Are there any specific destinations that you find most inspiring right now?

SDP: You can never experience an artwork fully unless you are physically confronted with it—and it’s the same thing with travel. You can see films and fantastic photography, but nothing will replace the feeling of being in a place and physically experiencing it. There are two areas that I find fascinating at the moment: one is Africa. Some of the best contemporary art is being made there right now. And the other is Los Angeles. In terms of cities, it’s as artistically vibrant today as Paris was a century ago, or New York in the early '60s.

RW: Where have you traveled recently, or where are you planning to travel next for work?

SDP: Well I was just in Paris for the FIAC art fair, and I’m off now to New York for the big auction weeks. Then in December, the art world goes to Miami for Art Basel. In many ways the art world has become like a traveling circus, reconnecting in different places.

Portrait courtesy Simon de Pury
Artwork Erik Bulatov courtesy Simon de Pury

“Erik Bulatov: Bot” is on view through November 21, 2015, at de Pury de Pury, 3 Grafton Street, London

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