Paul Redmayne has had life experiences that few in the auction industry can match. Athletic and adventurous, he sailed with a crew from Antigua to the UK, volunteered in a chimpanzee sanctuary for six months, and worked in luxury retail in London, Paris and Hong Kong before joining the world of auctions.
Even with his work, his travels, and his personal excursions, he’s managed to be happily married in Dubai with two daughters, ages 12 and seven. Here, he shares what he loves about the auction sector and recounts the path he took to get there.
What is your job at Sotheby’s, and what region do you serve?
I’m mainly responsible for our private sales in the Middle East, where the luxury market is increasingly expanding. A large part of my role is interacting and transacting with private collectors, as well as organizing themed private selling exhibitions in Sotheby’s locations, or in third-party spaces such as client residences, hotels, etc.
Prior to moving to Dubai, I worked 20 years in high-end luxury retail — initially in my native London, then moving to Paris, where I lived seven years before relocating to Hong Kong, where I stayed for 10 years. This relatively nomadic background has [allowed] me to build an address book that is geographically agnostic; hence, my role is more global than purely Middle East-centric.
What is it about your job that gets you up in the morning?
The people I get to work with. It sounds like a cliché, but ours is very much a people business. There is also the predictably unpredictable nature of what lies ahead. As you sit looking at your diary over breakfast, a client calls you out of the blue and asks that you join them for lunch, as they want to introduce you to a friend who has something they’d like to show you: a Pandora’s box of wonderment. Ultimately, what I end up selling is the real draw in the work I do.
What are a few of the most interesting jewels you have handled at this job?
Thankfully, over the years, too many to recount. Historical pieces, breathtaking pinks, blues, reds…. I’m an especially big fan of old stones [like] the historical Golcondas and have been blessed to have a good few go through my hands. I’m always on the lookout for old Golcondas; I think it’s a sector of the market which is still undervalued.
I was working in retail in Hong Kong and was losing so many clients to auction that I joked I should join an auction house.
What made you choose the auction business as a profession, and how long do you think you’ll be doing this?
I was working in retail in Hong Kong and was losing so many clients to auction that I joked I should join an auction house. A client then made an introduction, and I took the jump to the other side of the track and have never looked back.
I love the auction world. You are surrounded by the world’s foremost specialists who have chosen to dedicate their entire life to one discipline, be it jewels, watches, handbags, contemporary art, etc. I love what I do, and currently have no desire to find an alternative.
There’s so much we want to do at Sotheby’s, and although we are the world’s oldest auction house, it feels like this is just the beginning.
You worked at a chimpanzee sanctuary for six months. What was that experience like, and would you recommend it to others?
I was determined to achieve one of the most cherished items on my bucket list. I Googled “chimpanzee sanctuary” and up came this one place in West Africa that didn’t require a degree in primatology and was looking for two volunteers to live for six months in a hut on stilts, with no electricity and no running water in the Cameroonian jungle, looking after 25 rescued/orphaned chimps (their parents had been killed by hunters fueling the bushmeat trade).
The things I saw and the experiences I lived in those six months have helped form who I am today. It was truly life-changing, and I would recommend it to anyone.
What would you say to anyone wanting to get into the auction business?
If working alongside the smartest, most knowledgeable and passionate people is your thing, then do it; the auction world is built on them. If seeing the most incredible jewels, stones, art and collectables each day is your thing, that’s another reason to join the business. And then there are the collectors, who most often are equally passionate about their collections, each with their own extraordinary story to tell.
The above article is from the March-April 2023 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.
Image: Paul Redmayne. (Sotheby’s)