Going once

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2011, 12:00am


As the president of Christie's Asia and one of the world's foremost auctioneers, Francois Curiel is well aware of the importance of timing. 'An auctioneer has to be fair to the buyer and the seller. This can be difficult, as a seller will want you to keep your hammer in the air as long as possible, while a buyer wants you to bring the gavel down straight after his bid. So, timing is important, as you have to reach the right equilibrium,' he says.

'Too fast is no good, as one does not give the audience time to reflect and decide. Too slow is no good either, as you lose momentum and potential buyers fall asleep,' he says. 'So the rhythm must change and, as an auctioneer, I like to vary the speed as well as the tone and pitch of my voice.'

Curiel, a Parisian, joined Christie's in London as a jewellery specialist in 1969. He has stayed with the auction house ever since, working in Madrid, Paris, Geneva and New York as both an auctioneer and an executive. The former worldwide head of jewellery and current member of Christie's seven-person international management team has also been awarded the prestigious Antwerp Diamond Career Award and received France's highest distinction when he was named Officer of the Legion of Honour in 2009.

Curiel has presided over phenomenal growth since becoming head of Christie's Asia in January last year - 65 per cent in the first six months of this year. He travels throughout Asia to visit potential sellers, promote sales and prepare for exhibitions. That often means squeezing two days into one, the second day starting after dinner when his New York colleagues start trickling in. 'It's something I hadn't realised when I lived anywhere else,' he says. 'And the price to pay is that I have long working hours, and so what? I'm very lucky to be here. You can do anything you want 24 hours a day. It's a big small town.'

While his management duties keep Curiel busy, his favourite moments are those he spends managing the rhythm of a sale. 'That's something I've been doing for 30 years and I'd like to do for as long as I can,' he says. 'When everything is finished, the finality of the job is that one hour you are on the rostrum and you take the hammer for an auction.'


Reflet 'This was a gift for my birthday, in 1988. It's a classic dress watch, simple and white gold. I only wear for it for dressy occasions such as black tie.'


'This was given to me by my children for my 60th birthday. I put it on that day, which for me is very unusual. I'll sometimes wait three or four months before wearing a new tie. But I put it on that day. And it hasn't left my wrist since.'