Who is Bravo’s ‘Work of Art’ mentor Simon de Pury?

Simon de Pury

Bravo kicks off its Project Runway inspired fine art reality competition show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist June 9th, featuring 14 aspiring visual artists competing for $200,000 and a show at the Brooklyn Museum. The announcement has sparked a good deal of debate about whether or not a Project Runway type format can work when trying to measure the talents of visual artists trained in different media against one another, but that debate pales in comparison to the more important question: Who did they get to be their Tim Gunn?!?

In a previous post we delved into the background of the visual art world’s brand new Heidi Klum (China Chow) and now we will introduce you to Work of Art‘s Tim Gunn: Simon de Pury.

Work of Art's mentor Simon de Pury

Most famous for his charismatic and witty gavel-wielding antics behind the podium of Sotheby’s auction house and others, Simon de Pury is a world-renowned art figure famous for his knowledge of the global art marketplace and passion for art; a passion he is able to share in English, German, Italian and French. In addition to an impeccable resume, Simon exudes class and his austere demeanor commands respect in much the same way as the beloved Tim Gunn. In other words, he seems to be a perfect fit! But, in case you still have doubts, here is an art world bio of the man who’s catch phrase will most certainly be, “Make It Work of Art!”

Simon de Pury was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1951 and first cut his art chops wile studying at The Academy of Fine Arts in Tokyo in the 1970s. Initially aspiring to be a fine artist himself, de Pury began paying the bills by working for auction companies that dealt in the fine art of others.

Simon de Pury worked at the Bern auctioneers and then Kornfeld & Klipstein. He continued his education by studying at Sotheby’s Institute, which eventually led to de Pury working for Sotheby’s in London, Geneva and Monte Carlo.

From there Simon moved on to curate the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection in Lugano before going back to Sotheby’s as Chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland. Simon de Pury thrived in the auction environment and was soon made Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe and made the company’s Principal Auctioneer. Simon conducted all of Sotheby’s major European art sales through the 1990s.

The charismatic Simon de Pury goes well with contemporary art
Photo: lipsticktracez.com

From LondonSpeakerBureau.fr:

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 focused the selling activity of the auction house to four main collecting categories featuring works from the 20-21 centuries: contemporary art, design, photographs and jewelry. The new company re-located to the Meatpacking district in Chelsea which at the time was developing to be the international art community that it is today. In addition to auctions, Phillips de Pury & Company handles private treaty sales of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary works of art, builds private collections for a select group of clients and hosts a regular schedule of selling exhibitions for artists, designers and photographers.

Yeah I think this guy would know how to steer a young artist in the right direction, especially if they wanted to make some serious art bank! Further cementing his legend with the auction gavel is the following classic “If I Had a Hammer” video starring the man himself. Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance:

Though I don’t think it’s possible to match the levels of sincerity and properness of Tim Gunn, I am excited to see if Simon is able to use his art wisdom and charismatic persona to actually help and mentor these artists through the competition. Tim Gunn is so fantastic at offering up honest advice (sometimes not complimentary) in a manner that doesn’t make the contestants defensive (Kenley doesn’t count) and does seem to help make their designs better week in and week out. That’s what de Pury has to do for these artists, which can be a bit tougher than fashion because art tends to be a little more personal and abstract. If a dress doesn’t fit it doesn’t fit – a collage sculpture or a color field painting is a whole other animal entirely! I really want to like this show so I’m going to remain optimistic. C’mon Simon, make it work!