Owner of Pullman Galleries, dealing in the rarest and most beautiful items of automobilia and transport interest
Can you sum up your gallery’s focus?
“We deal in late-Nineteenth and Twentieth Century objets de luxe from the world of cars, aviation and boats. Boys’ toys, in fact, as we’ve found that a car collector will usually also be interested in automotive painting and sculpture. And if he likes cars he will probably also be keen on other transport machinery like boats and aeroplanes.”
How far back does your interest in this field go?
“As a car collector I’ve always been keen on automobilia and I went from just buying to dealing as a hobby while I worked in the City. I’ve been doing that for more than 30 years, but 13 years ago the hobby became the job when I started the gallery. It came from enthusiasm, not commercialism!”
Presumably the West End is a good location?
“It’s ideal – there are so many of the hedge fund brigade around, and the big hotels are nearby so an overseas visitor can come and see us. We also have Pullman Editions, based in Chelsea, run by my wife Georgina, which publishes high-quality transport posters. Naturally we deal in originals at the gallery but they were becoming so hard to find and so costly that I had an inspiration to create not reproductions but new works in a variety of period styles that are more affordable than originals. It caters for a sector I call ‘mass affluence’ – these aren’t everyday purchases, but they are affordable.”
What subjects do the posters cover?
“They are in the tradition of the great Thirties posters about famous races, beautiful holiday destinations and winter sports, all newly commissioned from several artists such as Charles Avalon. He really has a feel for the era. Also it gives us an opportunity to invent something that didn’t exist: firms such as Ferrari, Bentley and Porsche never produced this sort of image, but now we have, so a Ferrari collector can buy a set of marque posters to decorate his garage.”
Which are the items that excite you most?
“I always look for the unusual and beautiful, such as the sandstone and bronze sculpture ‘Vers la Victoire’ from 1923. I find the pre-WWI era fascinating too – recently I sourced a trophy from the 1913 Indianapolis 500. It was only for third place, but it’s in cast bronze with silver overlay. René Lalique glass is a name everyone knows and bonnet mascots are always coveted, but then you come across something unique, such as the 1920s limestone model of a château, or an aluminium desk made by Supermarine apprentices.”
You also commission items from current painters and sculptors.
“I’m very keen on the work of John Elwell, who makes large-scale sculptures out of riveted aluminium – for example a four-foot long Type 57 Bugatti or an Aston DBR1, or a six-foot-high Chrysler Building. But he might take months on an item and they’re all one-offs; I might suggest a subject but John makes whatever interests him and never makes a second one. A pity – I could sell each several times over with a few phone calls!”
You published a book about artist Dexter Brown. Do you work closely with him?
“I’ve loved Brown’s work since I was 10 and used to collect the pull-outs from Autosport. Now I know him well and always have a selection of his works in stock. There is an awful lot of bad motor racing art around today, but Dexter is one of the great names whose work will survive.”
Do you find the same clients buying from you?
“There is a core of collectors whose tastes are in tune with mine, which is gratifying. Sometimes they ask me to find a certain type of item, and sometimes I turn something up by chance and know exactly who will be keen to purchase it. Many of the bigger collectors are very individual people – if they install a bar they’ll want Art Deco cocktail shakers and glasses to equip it.”
How much does fashion affect the market?
“Individual areas go up and down separately; posters and glass might be up when sculpture is a bit flat, but our range means that there is always good business to do. Premium names hold up well – Louis Vuitton luggage, Asprey cocktail wares, Alfred Dunhill lighters, for example – but luckily none of our stock has a shelf life. I’m very happy to have a beautiful item on my shelves at home for as long as it takes to find a buyer.”