Jeff Salmon, Four Rooms
Age: 57 Owner: Decoratum
Jeff Salmon, well known maverick art and design dealer, has been working in the trade since he was 17. And With more than 40 years experience in the business, he owns Decoratum, comprising two of the largest galleries in Europe specialising in 20th and 21st century design which are on every international dealer and buyers "must see" list of places to go in London as they know they will find pieces that no one else can offer.
He first realised he had an eye for a good deal when he started working at Sotheby's, going on to set up his own business specialising in art nouveau and art deco glass by the time he was 24.
With a love for anything eclectic, the dad of four is always on the look out for goods that have that special something. His clients, including Kate Moss, Lily Allen and Uma Thurman and U2 legendary guitarist Adam Clayton, are all regulars at his showrooms in Church Street, Marylebone, which is regarded as the UK Mecca for antiques and design.
"I love being a dealer because it is in my blood," says Jeff. "I have been working in the business since I was 17 and whilst I do have other interests, it's vintage design that gives me the biggest buzz. "
Decorative and unusual items are what Jeff gets particularly excited about, and his all time favourites include a Diamond Dust screen print of Marilyn Monroe, a massive 1936 Boeing Engine Table and a unique multifaceted sideboard made from hundreds of lacquered blocks. With gallery prices ranging from £1000 up to £250 000, Jeff is prepared to spend big money.
But even the outspoken 57-year-old admits he can't always get it right.
"Of course I have made costly mistakes," he says. "I might make a mistake with one in 100 purchases. It is like betting on 100 horse races - you win 99 of them and lose one! "I'll play those odds all day long."
"Being a dealer is a wonderful disease though and you don't mind passing it on to your children. Teach your kids about arts and antiques and they will always be able to make a living."
Q&A with Jeff Salmon
Why did you want to do this show?
I wanted it to be seen as exciting, edgy and at the same time, you learn something.
So how have you enjoyed making it?
I have never worked so hard though in my life and that's no joke. In the second week, I really got into the swing of things and I did enjoy it. "Hey, what am I talking about, I loved every f***ing minute of it!"
What has been the hardest thing about making this show?
Knowing that I might not get first option on something I really wanted to buy by way of the fact that the sellers could go into three other rooms first and possibly miss out on seeing the best looking and wittiest buyer this side of Neptune.
Were the sellers canny with their pitches?
There were some awful measures of greed. People getting caught up in the whole thing, wanting much more than their objects were worth.
You are very lively. Are you ready for TV fame?
I've only waited 57 years! I'll know that I am famous when I don't have to go on to the waiting list for a reservation at my local branch of Pizza Express! Seriously though, I am still unsure whether TV is ready for me...it's still in its infancy. I don't know what will come out of this show but I have not gone into this for fame. My life has been mega-fun so far. I just want to do something that everybody will get excited about and undoubtedly they will with this new show. I want to encourage people to get off their arses and get into something creative whether it is art, antiques or design.
What kind of dealer have you been?
Straight talking and I never take any shite from the seller. You have to be upfront with people. I don't think any dealers take any crap. If I smell blood, then I am like a hound dog. I will go for it big time.
Do you love being a dealer?
Yes I do love it. Being a great art and antiques dealer really requires balls of steel and the ability to make mega gutsy decisions. That's what this program is about....put your dosh where your mouth and brain is. I do think it's really important that an art dealer doesn't take himself too seriously. Art and antique dealers also unfortunately suffer from self-esteem that's stratospheric. They act as though they had painted or carved the f***ing thing themselves!
What's been your best deal?
About 15 years ago, I bought a piece of furniture for £60k from the most expensive antique shot on Bond Street shop. I spotted it and thought it was under-priced. I took it to auction and it sold for £280k. The huge price didn't surprise me in the least , but even if I had only made £1000 on the deal I would have been nearly as happy (OK, I'm a liar) but any dealer will tell you that it is the dealing that gets in your blood...
Your clients include Kate Moss, Lily Allen, Uma Thurman and Madonna. What kind of things do they buy?
Furniture, lighting and art works mainly. They are very savvy. They buy things because they like it, rather than for an investment. But if you like something, it will become an investment. We have a philosophy in our gallery that if it doesn't sell, ‘would I take it home with me?' The answer is ‘yes' in every single case.
What's your advice to people watching who think they have something of value?
Email me and ONLY me an image and I'll get back with the best offer! Seriously though, email the programme. We're on the lookout for series 2...