Simon de Pury

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Simon de Pury
Simon De Pury at The 20th Anniversary Party for 'How to Spend It' at Corinthia Hotel, London, UK - 25 November 2014.jpg
Simon de Pury, 2014
Born 1951 (age 63–64)
Basel, Switzerland
Residence New York City and London
Nationality Swiss
Occupation Chairman and co-founder, Phillips de Pury & Company
Spouse(s) Michaela Neumeister
Children 4

Simon de Pury (born 1951) is a Swiss art auctioneer and collector. He is chairman and co-founder of the art auction house Phillips de Pury & Company, one of the largest art auction houses in the world. de Pury is often called "the Mick Jagger of art auctions" for his masterful, exciting style of auctioneering and is perhaps the world's best known art auctioneer.[1] In recent years he has also appeared in several television programs and films, most notably the Bravo network reality series Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, the first season of which premiered in June 2010.

Early life[edit]

Simon de Pury was born in Basel in 1951, and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tokyo in the 1970s.[2]

Art career[edit]

De Pury began his art career in the early 1970s when he studied Japanese painting techniques at the Tokyo Academy of Arts. He began his auctioning career in Switzerland working for the Swiss auction houses Bern Auctioneers and Kornfeld and Klipstein.[3]

After studying at the Sotheby's Institute, de Pury began working for the Sotheby's auction house in 1974 at their London and Monte Carlo offices, and later opened their new Geneva branch in his native Switzerland. From 1979-1986 he was the curator of the famous Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection and organized numerous art exhibitions at the Villa Favorita in Lugano, Switzerland. In 1986, he was appointed chairman of Sotheby's Switzerland and later chairman of Sotheby's Europe.[4]

In 1997, de Pury left Sotheby's to start his own auction house with Daniella Luxembourg, called De Pury and Luxemburg Art. In 2001 this company merged with Philips Auctioneers, another art auctioning company, to give the company its current name of Phillips de Pury & Company, of which he is chairman and chief auctioneer. In October 2008 a majority stake in the company was sold to the Russian luxury retailer The Mercury Group.[5]

Film and television appearances[edit]

De Pury has also appeared in numerous films and television programs, usually playing himself. His first film appearance was in the 2006 French film Avenue Montaigne, where he had a small role playing a famous art collector.[6] In March 2010 he was the subject of an hour-long documentary on BBC Four titled "The Man with the Golden Gavel."[7] He also appeared in the Oscar-nominated documentary Waste Land, which chronicled an art project by the renowned Brazilian artist Vik Muniz. De Pury appears towards the end of the film as the auctioneer that sells the final photographs.

De Pury is perhaps best known to the general public for his recurring role on the Bravo network reality television series Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. He appears in every episode of the show as a mentor to all of the artists in the competition, offering advice, encouragement and sometimes very blunt criticism. He has also made guest appearances in three episodes of The Colbert Report[8] as himself.

De Pury also appears in "Playtime" by British video artist Isaac Julien. The work premiered in November 2013 at Metro Pictures gallery in New York.

Personal life[edit]

Simon de Pury was born in Basel, Switzerland and holds the noble title of Baron. His mother is Switzerland's leading expert in Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, and his father was head of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche.[9] He has been known to conduct auctions in fluent English, French, German, Italian and occasionally Russian.[10]

His private art collection includes works by Kelley Walker, Rembrandt and Juergen Teller, but also contains an eclectic assortment of items such as coffee mugs shaped liked cartoon characters, skateboards and Godzilla figurines.[11]

He has been married twice, most recently in 2010 to Michaela Neumeister, one of his Phillips colleagues. He has four grown children from his first marriage and another who was born in 2010. He resides alternately in both New York City and London, frequently traveling to meet the demands of his business.[10]