I don’t know what it is about the art and antiques business, but it certainly attracts some strange and rather wonderful characters, many of whom delight in turning up at auction in person.
There is a tale of how, many years ago, an eager young man on the front desk at one of our leading auction houses was horrified to see a shambling wreck of a figure shuffle through the front door and start to make their way to the saleroom during a view.
Eager to save his employers and their well-to-do clients the embarrassment of having to rub shoulders with this tramp, he shot round the counter to intervene, politely but firmly escorting him back the way he came. Imagine his surprise when, having reached the front entrance, the elderly man was greeted by the doorman, who tipped his hat, adding: “Leaving so soon Your Grace?” Far from being an undesirable who had come in off the street to escape the cold, the aged eccentric was, in fact, a well-known landed duke and one of the auction house’s wealthiest patrons.
It is a lesson well learned in our industry not to judge a book by its cover. Somehow, the fine arts and first class craftsmanship attract the more singular characters of society – and often they are the ones with the deepest pockets, so a smile, friendly greeting and polite welcome is a prerequisite for all.