Alexander Gilkes'

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Alexander Gilkes is a Londoner come New York transplant, the former head of marketing and Chief auctioneer for Phillips de Pury, the husband of fashion designer Misha Nonoo, a member of Vanity Fair's "Best Dressed List," and an old intern of Stanley Kubrick's circa Eyes Wide Shut. Yet it's for none of these prestigious accolades that he's most frequently applauded. Of higher notoriety than any title, Gilkes is the co-founder of Paddle8—the online auction house that's reshaping the way that art, design, and collectibles can be bought and sold, and redefining the very essence of what it means to be a collector.

"I had two very different recognitions that led to the launch of site in 2011," says Gilkes. "First, I was working as an auctioneer at Phillips de Pury and I could see that the brick-and-mortar mode of auctions didn't lead to easy accessibility for collectors. Further to that, I was spending an inordinate amount of time on eBay, sieving through 1960's film and music posters–the condition of which I couldn't trust had been properly validated." Add the auction world's disregard for collectibles under $100,000 into the mix, and Gilkes saw an untapped gap in the market for an auction platform that related to the demands of the global digital age. "We launched with a view of creating the auction house of tomorrow. I didn't feel there was any where that lacked intimidation or made collecting affordable, safe, and easy," he explains.

Articulating what many prominent figures in the art world agreed to be the future of selling their work or the work of artists that they represent, Gilkes and his Paddle8 co-founders Aditya Julka and Osman Khan, soon won the backing of art-world insiders Damien Hirst, Jay Jopling, Alexander von Furstenberg, and the Mellon family, as well as tech investors behind Uber, Warby Parker, Vimeo, and Buzzfeed, and the upward trajectory of the site's fate was sealed. The pool from which Gilkes could cherry-pick rare antiquities and memorabilia for prospective buyers was also widened. "We started with contemporary art and then included design auctions. Now we've run everything from rare sneakers to Frank Sinatra’s driving license and Kurt Cobain's credit card," recites Gilkes when probed for a selection of the most unusual pieces.

As for his personal collection, that too is evolving along with Paddle8's expansion. "When I look back at the beginning of my collection, I am amazed to see how it has evolved. The more you see, the more your visual acuity and taste develops. I had no education in art nor auctions when I started, so my foray into the auction world was one bold running bomb into the deep end" One such example is the first piece that Gilkes ever purchased which has since been relegated to a quiet spot above the photocopier in his office, at the behest of his wife. "When collectors make their first steps into buying art, many prefer to approach via formats that offer more accessible subject matters and formats like photography or street art," he explains. "Then as your taste and knowledge sharpen, I think that editions make a comfortable next step—particularly if you don't have a big budget, but want to buy into an artist whose stock is soaring and whose legacy is ensured."

For those who are happy to share their collection at home, the setting is of equal importance to the acquisition “Framing can be expensive, but it makes all the difference in elevating the work. I love to hang works in salon style with the pieces arranged in a cramped and wonky setting” says Gilkes. If it’s a larger piece and if your wall space allows, he recommends hanging it alone to maximize impact. Light damage is the silent enemy of any collector, so investing in the proper materials to filter ultra-violet lights is a must.

More than anything, Gilkes contends that whether you’re rich, famous, an oligarch, or just someone who’s saving up for something special to put in your home, you should only ever buy pieces that you truly adore. “I advise my friends to look as extensively as their time allows, to seek the advice of those in the know, read around the artists that appeal to them and understand what the valid sources are. There are certain galleries that I often pop into and try to always visit the most respected art fairs, which include Frieze, Art Basel, NADA, and LISTE and to detect the emergent stars, but it’s a dangerous game to be a prospector—you have to form your own opinion. The ultimate thing is that you really have to love what you buy.”




Alexander's Picks from Paddle8

"Prints and editions are the ideal entry point for novice collectors—or any collector without an oligarch's budget. You can access works by blue-chip, recognizable artists for a fraction of the price point of a painting or unique sculpture, without sacrificing provenance or visual impact."

I selected pieces by artists who perennially astound me—Robert Longo, whose style is breathtaking; Ai Weiwei, for a striking piece that serves simultaneously as sculpture, social protest, and conversation-starter; Gilbert & George, who are amazing, full stop. I also chose a small spot edition by Damien Hirst, whom I consider to be the Warhol of our time. And a small drawing by Picasso—no explanation needed."



Alexander's 10 Tips for Collecting Art
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"Look at as many things as you possibly can, listen to friends and advisors, and understand what the valid sources are."
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"When you first start out collecting, it's easier to come in via formats that have more straight forward references like photography or street art."
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"Always do your research. Before bidding, you should familiarise yourself with the artist and his background of work."
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"Framing can be expensive, but it makes all the difference."
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"For hanging, I love lots of smaller pieces visually jammed together in wonky settings."
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"If it’s a larger piece, hang it alone to maximise impact."
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"Light damage is the silent enemy of any collector, so invest in the proper materials to filter ultra-violet lights if you can afford it."
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"The colour of the room in which you display each piece is also of equal importance."
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"It’s a dangerous game to be a prospector—you have to form your own opinion."
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"You should only ever buy pieces that you truly adore. The ultimate thing is that you really have to love what you buy."

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My Weekend Bag

"Sometimes I fly from New York to London twice in one week, so I have the routine down. I use the same driver every time and always take the last flight out from Newark, if possible. I eat beforehand, watch a film, drink a beer, pass out, and then land. I only ever travel with hand luggage packed in my navy carry-on case from Globe-Trotter. In it you’ll always find a multi-adaptor, Moscot sunglasses, swimming goggles and trunks, a mesh bag with lots of different currencies, and two pairs of shoes—one by Common Projects and another which are a bit smarter."



Around the World with Alexander Gilkes

“My most amazing trip in recent years was to Bhutan with my wife. We spent hours at Tiger’s Nest, which overlooks the Himalayas. We also love to go to Menorca and visit friends in Positano. Closer to home, we go Upstate with the dog to a very special spot we found through Airbnb.”

NEW YORK “I’m a massive foodie and always in search of new spots to try, but I also love to retreat to places where I know I can get a table without any hassle. A typical Friday night might include a trip to beer mecca, Proletariat and Pylos in the East Village. I eat breakfast every morning at Lafayette.”

LONDON “I love seafood and Wiltons has the most incredible smoked salmon. Indian is also a must when in London. The Painted Heron is great because you can take in your own partridge or pheasant and they’ll cook it in the Tandoor for you. For pubs, I love the Grenadier near Hyde Park. I’m good friends with the team at Chiltern Firehouse, so sometimes I’ll stay there or at the Connaught.”

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“My wife and I wanted a home away from home, with English style and wonky staircases, but the height and light of a New York loft."
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