Auction veteran Simon de Pury explains the bold business model for his latest auction, designed to help especially artists

Art industry viewers rely on auction veteran Simon de Pury to put a fresh spin on the shows and initiatives he hosts. His latest venture does not disappoint.

His now show, “Women: Art in Times of Chaos,” is billed as “a groundbreaking virtual exhibition” featuring works created over the past three years by outstanding contemporary artists, including Alexis McGrigg, Chloe Wise and Allison Zuckerman. It will conclude with a live auction on August 25.

Each artist was invited to offer a work of art of their choice that was created no earlier than 2019.

Asked about how the artists were chosen, De Pury said that in compiling lists of contemporary artists he admires, he realized that the majority were women.

“Artists are mediums who show us mere mortals things we don’t know or understand yet,” he said.

While some artists created works for the show, others sent works they created during the prescribed time frame, what De Pury aptly refers to as a “time of chaos.”

Chloe Wise, Feelings for you. Image courtesy of the artist.

A big advantage for the participating painters? The full hammer price for each lot goes to the artist and the gallery representing them.

In addition, three percent of the hammer price will be deducted from the buyer’s premium and paid out to UN Women, the largest women’s charity in the world. It promotes programs, policies and standards aimed at upholding women’s human rights.

β€œI worked at Sotheby’s in the mid-1990s when it was decided that annual bonuses for business executives would no longer be determined solely by the level of auction shipments they brought in each season, but also by how many private sales they successfully negotiated for the company,” de Pury told Artnet News on the occasion of the new exhibit.

It changed everything, he said, with private sales quickly becoming an important part of profitability. While Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips don’t separate their private sales totals, it can safely be assumed that their numbers would rank among the top sales of all major art galleries.

Alexis McGrigg, Undone (2022) Image courtesy of the artist.

Alexis McGrigg, Undone (2022) Image courtesy of the artist.

The business model for the show, which emerged from the pandemic, suggests how quickly the art industry returned to its old habits once restrictions were removed, almost as if they had never been in effect.

“This is very natural, because as individuals we quickly forget the shocks we survived,” de Pury said. β€œIt is mainly the youngest artists and the most adventurous galleries that have supported this project. Artists are generally risk averse and afraid to take a step that is not in line with what used to be the norm.”

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