Apollo Magazine

Dealer’s Choice: Simon Phillips

Simon Phillips on selling and collecting 18th-century furniture

The art market is full of personalities, but dealers and gallerists often operate behind the scenes. In this regular series, Apollo asks art dealers to introduce themselves and their businesses. We spoke to Simon Phillips, of Ronald Phillips Ltd.

Tell us a bit about the history of your business…

Ronald Phillips was founded in 1952, and is today one of the leading fine English antique dealers in the world. I took over the business from my father Ronald in the late 1990s.

What are your specialist fields?

18th-century English furniture, mirrors and objects.

What’s the most exciting work you’re currently offering?

A George III giltwood demi-lune console table designed by Robert Adam and made by William France and John Bradburn. It is featured on the front cover of this year’s catalogue and is currently on display on our stand at The International Fine and Antiques Show at The Armory in New York.

What’s been your greatest triumph as a dealer? 

To still have a thriving business today.

And your greatest professional regret?

Not buying the car number plate ‘CHA1R’ as we sell so many chairs!

How has the market in your field changed since you started dealing?

Our markets are still Americans and foreigners living in England. Sadly, the English client base has diminished. We do good business in Europe but not France. China is yet to come for us. 

Do you collect yourself? And in the same field as you deal?

Yes I do collect myself and in the same field. For me it is all about furniture being functional. But it is the style, colour and patination that makes English furniture desirable and collectable. It is also the simplicity and good taste that appeals.

Which work have you been sorriest to part with?

An extremely rare and important early 19th-century mahogany centre table to a design by Thomas Hope. Unfortunately it was just too big to keep!

Also a highly important pair of William and Mary mirrors with red verre églomisé borders retaining their original plates and gilding, originally belonging to the Courtauld Family.

If you weren’t an art dealer, what would you be?

Wine dealer or restaurateur!

Ronald Phillips Ltd is exhibiting at the International Fine Art & Antique Dealers Show in New York until 23 October.

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