Making the transition from eponymous to anonymous, Carol Vogel at the New York Times has reported that Simon de Pury and his wife Michaela have stepped down from the auction house that has spent the past decade nipping at the heels of auction house giants Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Vogel writes,
The departures come on the heels of Mr. de Pury’s sale of his remaining interest in the company to Mercury Group, the Russian-owned retail giant that bought a controlling share in 2008.
“During the wonderful and exciting years I had the privilege to spend at Phillips de Pury + Company the firm has become a major taste maker in contemporary art, design and photography,’’ Mr. de Pury said the statement. “I embark on new adventures comfortable with the knowledge that the company is in an excellent position and has been going from strength to strength.’’
Simon de Pury has served as chairman and chief auctioneer for the company for the past twelve years. Recently he had become very much the embodiment of the company with his foray into Bravo’s reality show Work of Art. Work of Art attempted to replicate the success of the reality television show Project Runway which just completed its tenth season. The fashion show featured model Heidi Klum as one of the panel of judges with Tim Gunn serving as the mentor to the aspiring designers who were expected to complete weekly fashion based challenges in weekly episodes. Simon de Pury assumed the mentor role of Tim Gunn in the art based offshoot by critiquing and mentoring the participating artists with frequent tie-ins and plugs for the Phillips de Pury brand, however critics found the show’s format a bit too restricting for the more esoteric artistic process.
While Vogel ominously describes the Phillips as “the struggling boutique auction house”, Artlyst produces a rosier interpretation stating, “2012 has been one of the most lucrative years ever for the auction house Phillips de Pury & Company. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise to anyone that Simon de Pury has decided to step down as Chairman (effective 21 December).” With his departure, Phillips will drop the “de Pury” from its name effective January 2013. Artlyst provides a brief history of the storied firm,
Phillips was founded in 1796 in London. It was bought out by Bonham’s (another 18th century UK based auction comany) in the 1990s. They then sold the brand on to the small Luxembourg based de Pury & Company auctioneers. It has been known as Phillips de Pury & Company for the last eight years. In January 2013 the firm will revert back to its original name of PHILLIPS. In February, the Company will expand its presence at its premier New York location at 450 Park Avenue by taking significant additional gallery and office space. Phillips will continue in its goal of providing the best auction experience for the sale of 20th- and 21st -Century Art and of offering the most exciting catalogues, exhibitions, marketing and digital media in the industry.
Interestingly enough, the artlyst article also contradicts Vogel in citing an emailed statement from the acquiring Mercury Group stating,
Phillips’s founder and chairman, Simon de Pury, retains a stake in the company as part of what the e-mailed news release calls “a strategic partnership.”