Auction Pro Simon de Pury Launches New Online Platform for Single-Owner Sales

de Pury is betting big on connections and cutting edge technology.

Simon de Pury
Simon de Pury

Simon de Pury headshot

This fall, Simon de Pury is launching a new online auction platform called, simply, “de Pury.”

The new business—a partnership between the auction veteran and international gallery Mallett—will stage a series of single-owner sales alongside curated brick-and-mortar exhibitions in London and New York.

Major backing is coming from Swiss venture capitalist Klaus Hommels, who has invested in Skype and Facebook, and who sits on the board of Spotify.

“I’ve always been very interested and intrigued by what is happening in the  Internet and the digital side of the art market,” de Pury told artnet News in a phone interview from London. “In many ways the art market is one of the areas that has been the least changed by the technological evolution and it’s something that I’ve always followed with interest” (see Weighing the Pros and Cons of the eBay Partnership).

The first auction will be a sale on October 12 of about 400 lots from the Lambert Art Collection (LAC) which is managed by de Pury’s longtime friend Baroness Lambert and spread across several cities, with some artworks in New York, and others in Europe (Belgium and Switzerland).

Back in 2004, de Pury helped execute the well-received Phillips auction titled “Veronica’s Revenge” featuring contemporary photography from the LAC, including work by artists such as Man Ray, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Jeff Wall, Larry Clark, and Gordon Matta-Clark.

Prior to the sale, the collection had toured the world after being rejected by a director of the family-owned Banque Lambert for its perceived inappropriate content.

This time around, Lambert enlisted de Pury to help her get proposals from standard auction houses for the 400 or so lots she wished to sell. In the end, she decided de Pury should sell the works she selected to consign and he thought it was the perfect time to test the digital realm to do so.

The sale is titled “A Visual Odyssey: Selections from LAC” offering contemporary art and modern design along with antique furniture and objets d’art spanning the 18th and 19th centuries (see Picassos and Pez Dispensers? Sotheby’s and eBay Team Up (Again)).

De Pury points out that lower costs for developing and delivering digital catalogues will allow the new platform to charge a lower commission rate than most other houses. Premiums will be 15 percent of the price of the work up to $2 million, and 12 percent thereafter, compared with most other rate structures of 25 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

The presale exhibition for the upcoming sale will run for two weeks at Ely House, Mallet’s Dover Street headquarters and aims to draw connections between historic and contemporary objects.

Designers Jacques Grange and Pierre Passebon will create a mise en scene that juxtaposes objects, paintings, photographs, and furniture, such as a Christopher Wool painting with Chinese furniture, and a Richard Prince “Joke” painting alongside 1930s design. Other contemporary works will be displayed with 18th-century French furniture. De Pury said prices will range from $500 to upwards of $2–3 million.

De Pury is well-known for his extensive art world contacts, his charm, and his flair on the auction block. He founded and ran Phillips de Pury for 12 years, and left in 2012 to run his own private art advisory firm with his wife, Michaela. They will continue to run the firm as a separate entity.

Though this move marks  de Pury’s first foray into the digital sphere as far as sales are concerned, he has already established a substantial Instagram presence, where his followers number nearly 130,000.

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