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Meet The Woman Waving The Gavel At New York’s Top Auctions
Her clients include Jay-Z and Beyonce!
Career 04 Apr 2020

Jacqueline Towers-Perkins is an auctioneer and contemporary art specialist at Bonhams Auctioneers in New York. She also runs an independent auctioneering and fundraising consultancy, serving non-profit institutions and holding auctions at high profile charity galas and benefit events across Europe and the US. Having raised millions for charity, Jacqueline’s clients include everyone from Beyonce to HRH Prince Charles, so we just had to speak to her about her career and her thoughts on the art world.

1

In the art world you currently find most exciting that… 

There are currently so many women’s voices being heard, listened to and represented.

 

Number of unanswered mails in your account today…

Seventy-four when I started writing this, six by the end. I am getting there!

 

Perfect outfit to sell art…

My job is very varied, and each day sees me at different locations interacting with diverse audiences. I need a chunky high heel that can take me from showing art on the gallery floor, to inspecting artwork behind the scenes in the storeroom, to auctioneering to several hundred people on an event stage. You will often find me dressed in black and if it has feathers, all the better.

 

Your everyday online art read is…

My mornings usually start with a quick scan of Artnet News, the Baer Faxt, Hyperallergic, ARTnews, Art Market Monitor, The Robb Report and The Art Gorgeous. Being aware of, and understanding, art market patterns, trends and events is a big part of my job.  I have to stay up to date with what is happening in the art world to allow me to service my clients as best I can and to make sure that we are sourcing the most desirable Contemporary artworks for our auctions.

 

Most ridiculous thing you ever bought…

In a moment of either madness or inspiration towards the end of last year, I commissioned a nude portrait by a fab young female artist that I wanted to support. Unfortunately, my spark of bravery has diminished since then and I have yet to actually go through with it!

 

After a bad day in the art world, you need…

While there are no bad days in this industry, my weeks are packed during Spring and Autumn when auction week and gala season collide. I see a lot of busy days at the auction house and long nights on the event stage so a meditation app, a BBC period drama, Thai food and a good night’s sleep are what get me back in the saddle for the next day.

2

On your office table you always have…

A continuous cup of inadvertently lukewarm green tea, a daily planner which I am constantly ticking things off in and adding to, and a waving bobble head of the Queen that was gifted to me by a fabulous former colleague.

 

Favourite art x brand collaboration…

Takashi Murakami x Louis Vuitton’s original 2002 collaboration was, and remains, an absolute classic. It defined the style of the early 2000s and paved the way for collaboration culture. Those Speedy handbags will make a comeback soon, mark my words!

 

Your first post on Instagram…

It was from a trip to Cambodia and it was heavily over filtered and poorly captioned. It only garnered nine likes which was likely reflective of an inadequate first effort. Since then I hope the content has improved. I will normally share shots of great artworks I have seen on my art world travels or photos of events I auctioneer at for charitable organizations across the country.

 

Favourite hashtag…

#auctioneer and #contemporaryart

 

Your art world girl crush…

So many! Ileana Sonnabend for her eye, Betty Parsons for her passion, Louise Nevelson for her flamboyance and Carolee Schneemann for everything.

3

Art boy I would love to have lunch with…

I would choose hip-hop legend and art collector Q-Tip from a Tribe Called Quest for lunch any day of the week. A year ago, I was lucky enough to visit his art collection and straight off I was impressed with the cutting-edge works, great names and Q-Tip’s superb ability to recognize the next generation of pioneering creative talent. A combination of major blue-chip names rub shoulders with younger rising stars, carefully curated and collected from personal relationships within the creative industries. What struck me most though, was the clear motivation to elevate other artists & support their work, particularly in the case of his championing of younger, emerging artists. A year after that visit, Bonhams was beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to present an exhibition of Q-Tip’s private collection to a wider public audience for the very first time. Not only a music icon, Q-Tip uses his influence to elevate and support others and it was very exciting to be able to champion that ethos and partner with such a great person and awesome collector.

 

Favourite new artist discovery…

A friend introduced me to the work of Genieve Figgis last year and I think her darkly funny, Old Master influenced works are terrifically creepy and surreal and I can’t get enough of them. I am also currently obsessing over Gisela Colon’s beautiful rainbow forms and the work of Jordan CasteelNina Chanel Abney and Genesis Belanger.

 

#artworldgoals?

To be a collector myself! I see so many beautiful objects every day and advise collectors on what to buy, but I need to take my own advice more! Though I have a few pieces, I would love to build a collection that champions artists I am passionate about.

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