Phillips de Pury & Co is an auction house and art dealers. The company has offices in London as well as Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, Los Angeles, Milan, Munich, New York, and Paris. Phillips conducts auctions in New York, London, and Geneva in the areas of contemporary art, photography, 20 to 21st century design art, and jewelry. Phillips also provides consulting advisory services, including building private collections, and private treaty sales.
The company’s roots date back to 1796. Harry Phillips, a young entrepreneur, founded the auction house of Phillips in London after resigning as the senior clerk to James Christie. Phillips conducted twelve auctions during his first year of business and soon became a success. Before long the auctioneer was conducting sales for all the famous and distinguished people of the day, including Beau Brummel, Marie Antoinette, and Napoleon.
Phillips was an astute salesman, combining business acumen with a sense of showmanship. He promoted his sales with novel methods, e.g. preceding major auctions with sophisticated evening receptions. This has become a regular feature of modern auction business. Phillips was quick to gain the confidence of the British aristocracy.
Upon his death in 1840 Harry Phillips passed on a thriving business to his son, William Augustus. William changed the firm’s name to Messrs Phillips & Son In 1879. In 1882 he changed the name again, to Phillips, Son & Neale when his son-in-law, Frederick, entered the business; that name endured until the 1970s, when the company reverted to simply Phillips.
From 1999 to 2003 Phillips was part of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. After a difficult period the UK operations of Phillips were bought by Bonhams in 2001 and re-branded under the Bonhams name. Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH, brought in Simon de Pury & Daniela Luxembourg, private dealers in impressionist, modern, and post-war art, to run the remainder, which was renamed Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg. In 2002 de Pury and Luxembourg acquired a majority; in March 2004 de Pury, took majority control of the company, which continued under the name Phillips de Pury & Co. De Pury narrowed down activities to works of modern and contemporary art. The company has grown, successfully introducing the best of new art talent to the secondary market while hosting noteworthy exhibits and sales for contemporary artists and designers. The new European headquarters in Howick Place, London, were opened in early 2008.
On 6 October 2008 the company was purchased by the Russia-based Mercury Group, a luxury retail company. Mercury reputedly paid around US$60 million to acquire a majority share, although the actual transaction was private. “Around 50 %” of the figure went to cover Phillips’s liabilities. Mercury is run by Leonid Friedland and his associate, Leonid Strunin.