Auction Veteran Simon de Pury Is Quietly Returning to the Art Market as Artistic Director of a Gallery in the English Countryside

Simon de Pury has traded fast-paced auction life for a quiet gallery in West Sussex.

Simon de Pury.

After a long hiatus from the art world, Simon de Pury is making a comeback.

Next month, the former auctioneer and advisor is joining the new UK gallery Newlands House, set in an 18th-century townhouse in West Sussex, as artistic director.

It’s a surprisingly sleepy destination for a man once known as “the Mick Jagger of auctions,” and who made appearances on reality TV and as a DJ. Petworth, a picturesque historic town, is located about an hour from London. 

The former chairman and chief auctioneer of Phillips (then called Phillips, De Pury and Company) is overseeing the gallery’s programming, which is dedicated to modern and contemporary art, photography, and design. The 7,500-square-foot gallery space is spread across 12 rooms of a listed Georgian townhouse.

Newlands House is a cultural center that will stage top quality exhibitions in the fields of art, design, photography, and architecture,” de Pury says in a statement. “The opening of the gallery marks a significant moment for the residents of Petworth, as well as for visitors from around the country and beyond, who we expect will be blown away by the beauty of the town and its surroundings.”

Newlands House exterior. Photo by Rob Burress.

Newlands House exterior. Photo by Rob Burress.

The gallery’s inaugural show will be a tribute to the late photographer Helmut Newton to commemorate his 100th birthday. One hundred original works will be included in the solo exhibition, including a rarely seen 1980 print that will be on view in the UK for the first time, Big Nude III (Henrietta variant). The unique print is going on view alongside other marquee works such as Shoe, Monte Carlo (1983) and Elsa Peretti, Bunny, New York (1975).

“We’re excited the opening show will be dedicated to the crowning figure of 20th-century photography, Helmut Newton, and look forward to seeing the artist’s works displayed within the historic backdrop of the gallery,” de Pury says.

The gallery’s exhibition program will focus on the great artists of the 20th century. It will also include events, educational activities, and talks with artists and curators in an effort to bring in the surrounding community. An arts cafe is also slated to open in the building within the year.

Petworth is already something of an art lover’s getaway. The historic town prides itself on the National Trust property, Petworth House, a vast mansion inspired by the Baroque palaces of Europe. The stately home displays one of the UK’s largest art collections including works by Titian, Bosch, and Gainsborough, as well as a large collection of landscapes by Turner. And thelandscape architect Capability Brown designed the surrounding parkland.

“HELMUT NEWTON 100” opens March 6 through May 31 at Newlands House, Petworth, West Sussex.

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