Simon de Pury: Are auction guarantees changing the art market?

One of the art world's leading figures, Simon de Pury is renowned for his deep and long-standing knowledge of the global marketplace and his legendary auctioneering style. He generates excitement in the saleroom with a display of great wit and can conduct sales in four languages-English, French, German and Italian.

Born in Basel in 1951, Simon de Pury studied at The Academy of Fine Arts in Tokyo in the 1970s. After working at the auctioneers, Kornfeld & Klipstein in Bern and subsequently studying at Sotheby's Institute, Simon de Pury joined Sotheby's working in London, Geneva and Monte Carlo.

In 1997, Simon de Pury co-founded with Daniella Luxembourg, de Pury & Luxembourg Art, a Geneva-based art advisory firm. In 2001, this firm merged with Phillips Auctioneers to become Phillips, de Pury and Luxembourg which specialized in the sale of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art, Jewelry, Photography, and 20th and 21st Century Decorative Arts. In 2004, Simon de Pury became the majority shareholder and Chairman of Phillips de Pury & Company.

  • Transcript


Simon de Pury: I mean the guarantees are a result of the heated competition between the various auction companies. And every now and then you have a vendor or an institution that, when they sell, want to be absolutely certain. They want to protect their down side. And so the auction . . . the company gives a guarantee, no matter what happens on the day of the sale. So if it sells for less than the guaranteed amount, the auction house has to make up for the difference. So you protect the down side, but at the same time you get paid for the upside. So if you do far better than the guarantee, you take a much bigger part of the . . . of the upside. Now in a strong market like we’ve witnessed in the last three to five years, there have been more and more guarantees given out by the main auction houses. It is something that we also do; that we prepare to do in certain specific cases. But when the market is very strong, there is no need to get a guarantee. In fact, if you don’t have a guarantee and you do sell for a record price, you make more money like that than by taking a guarantee. So it’s are you a pessimist or an optimist. Do you want to protect your down side or your up side? Recorded on: 2/7/08