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In the Air – Art+Auction's Gossip Column

Simon de Pury Sells Book “The Auctioneer”

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Jet-setting Swiss auctioneer Simon de Pury has sold a book to St. Martin’s Press about the auction world. The former Phillips de Pury chairman, who left that auction house in late 2012 after 12 years in that position when Moscow-based investment firm Mercury Group bought up his shares in the company, is going to be spilling the beans on a world that works hard to keep its beans, for the most part, unspilled. “It will be a look inside the auction world in his voice,” said Jennifer Weis, the executive editor and manager of content development at St. Martin’s, who bought the book for the publisher. “Stories, history, the highlights, the problems, everything.”

De Pury must have a lot of stories up his sleeve as his history as an auctioneer began in the 1970s with Swiss auction houses Bern Auctioneers and Kornfeld and Klipstein. In 1974, after studying at the Sotheby’s Institute, he began working for that auction house. He became chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland in 1986 and ultimately chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, leaving that house in 1997 to start up his own auction house, De Pury and Luxembourg Art, with Daniella Luxembourg. In 2001, that company merged with Phillips Auctioneers.

Though the art world is characteristically reclusive, de Pury has already made a name for himself cultivating his populist side. He did a memorable stint as a host of the Bravo network reality TV show “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist,” where he was seen dispensing, alternately, encouragement or harsh opinions to young artists, and always in a sharp suit. He is a self-professed Instagram addict, and would, for a time, “friend’” anyone on Facebook who requested his friendship — that is until he maxed out on his “friends” limit.

For this project, de Pury has teamed up with writer William Stadiem, author of “Jet Set,” and the completed book is set to land some time in 2015.

“I think he has a unique viewpoint,” said Weis. “The material that I’ve read is fabulous and gets you right into that world. I think people are fascinated by the art world, and it’s kind of a closed world to many people. This is going to open it up.”

— Rozalia Jovanovic (@Ruschka)

(Photo: De Pury with David Gill at the David Gill Gallery; via Facebook.)

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