In a new section for Private Art Investor, we quiz leading industry figures on what they enjoy about their job, their likes and pet hates, their ideal client and who would play them in a movie of their life. This week, Jean-Baptiste Fabre, founder of AuctionAfterSale and Thirdman.auction, faces the questions.
(1) What made you want to pursue a career in the private art investment industry?
I am the fourth generation of a dynasty of experts in 18th century French royal furniture, the golden age of French furniture. However, I decided to betray my ancestors and get involved in the auction business, which I find more exciting and more reactive.
(2) Describe your ideal client.
There is no ideal client – other than really passionate ones. I do not discriminate between collectors or investors. People invest in art for various – and personal -reasons. I am here to help them, not judge them.
(3) Who’s been your industry mentor, and why?
I really admire the late Peter Wilson, the former chairman of Sotheby’s who masterminded the acquisition of the Parke-Bernet Galleries. He was an auctioneer with great vision and was able to predict the future trends of the art market, what it would become. He was an auctioneer who lifted the art market to new heights.
(4) Where is your ideal meeting venue, and why?
I travel a lot so in London I like to meet people at Loulou’s, the arts club in Mayfair, Wilton’s in St James’s – very English – or Franco’s nearby if I fancy Italian food. In Geneva, I like to dine at Gourmet Brothers and The Trois Verres. I also like to meet at Le Lyrique’s terrasse at Da Matteo’s. In Paris, I like the Cercle de l’Union Interalliée, a private social and dining club in the Faubourg Saint-Honoré next to the British Embassy. I also like to have drinks at the bar of the Royal Monceau Hotel, or at the Minipalais bar-lounge. For lunch or diner, I like to eat at Monsieur Bleu, the Palais de Tokyo restaurant, or Miss Ko, an interesting concept of art-restaurant designed by Philippe Starck.
(5) What’s hot in private art investment and what’s not?
The hottest investment right now is undoubtedly contemporary art… I would even say it’s boiling! And if people make bad investment decisions, given the astronomical amounts of money involved, they could get hurt. Coldest currently is 18th century French furniture – there are bargains there you would not even find in an IKEA catalogue today!
(6) Private art investment is often seen as a glamorous industry. When has it been less than glamorous for you?
It is not an investment in art as such but I can tell you that preparing vintage cars auctions was always an absolute nightmare! Because cars – when they arrived – often had nothing to do with the description we were sent to draft the auction catalogue… The vehicles were often imported from the USA at the time, so customs were a pain, and the vehicles’ documents were often incomplete.
(7) Which industry buzzword would you ban?
Unsold! Bought in! Withdrawn!
(8) Describe yourself in three words.
“Your personal bidder”. Alongside AuctionAftersale I created Thirdman.auction as I felt there was a need to help clients before the auction process even happens. My aim is to support, coach and represent my busy but passionate clients during live auctions.
(9) What’s your advice for people wanting to get into private art investment?
Buy with your heart, not your wallet. You could have to live with the art you buy for quite some time so you have to like it! You will consider and appreciate it in a different way if you only expect to profit from it.
(10) Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life, and why?
Colin Firth in a movie called “Magic in the Auction Light” (a new take on Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight”). I met Colin a long time ago, when he was filming one of his first roles in Tumbledown, which was directed by my room mate. I was attending the Christie’s course at the time.