I recently had the opportunity to interview one of the four dealers from the hit TV show Four Rooms. I was instantly excited; not only because I thoroughly enjoy the program, but because the witty Jeff Salmon is definitely my favourite of the dealers.
“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. ” – Jeff Salmon
Incase you haven’t seen Four Rooms here is a little run down. The program focuses on four of Britains very top dealers in art, antiques and collectibles; Jeff Salmon, Emma Hawkins, Andrew Lamberty & Gordon Watson. The four dealers sit in separate rooms, each prepared to spend their own fortunes for the right item. Entertaining, intellectual and fascinating; the items that come in are just as bizarre as their sellers. Members of the public bringing in anything from a Mujahideen War rug to a Bird Feather Chandelier - all hoping to walk away with a life-changing amount of money. To do so they have to work out when to sell or when to see the next dealer, because once they leave the room they’re in, the offer is off the table for good! It’s a gripping show and I personally find myself shouting at the TV trying to predict what the dealers will offer on items they haven’t dealt with and have no previous knowledge of. Four Rooms has not only demolished any preconceived ideas about the snooty and boring world of antiques/artefacts shows, but it has created it’s own exciting niche. I myself, cannot wait for series 2! To view previous episodes of Four Rooms, head over to4oD.
Jeff Salmon stood out from the get-go with his bold dealing style – his dead pan, icy stare cutting through the sellers as he reads their body language. “Straight talking, I never take any shite from the seller!” With over 40 years of experience Jeff has built a reputation for being a maverick art and design dealer. Amongst his many accomplishments, Jeff owns Europe’s largest commercial gallery Decoratum which specializes in vintage, retro and contemporary furniture and design. His client base is huge and features A list celebrities such as Kate Moss, Lily Allen and U2 guitarist Adam Clayton.
Below are the questions I asked Jeff Salmon.
Q- The first series of Four Rooms has recently concluded, and you’ve proved to be a firm favourite with viewers. What have you been up to since the program was filmed and aired on television?
I have been ‘up to my eyes’ following the conclusion of the Four Rooms series, although, it has to be said, that the filming actually finished in January. Nothing has greatly changed in my life since the programme was filmed and aired, not least because I am always travelling the world looking for new pieces for the galleries. It has to be said that certainly I am being recognised and on at least two occasions the ‘autograph hunter’ thought I was either Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd and on another occasion I was confused with Mr Bean. I’d love to tell you that this was a joke, but it’s absolutely true. It appears that nobody wants me for ‘Jeff Salmon of Four Rooms’.
Q- Many have described your dealing style as ‘acid-tongued’ and ‘intense,’ with a wicked sense of humour. Would you agree?
I have never thought of myself as ‘acid-tongued’ nor ‘intense’. Certainly I do not suffer fools gladly and hate ‘film-flam’. I’d certainly go along with a description of having a good sense of humour and, it has to be said, that whilst a good education is extremely important, I think it runs a very close second to having a good sense of humour. It also helps to be exceptionally good looking which, quite obviously, is where I score very highly on Four Rooms.
Q- From a young age trading newts in the schoolyard, to wheeling and dealing in your teens, you’ve shown a natural talent for dealing. Would you say this is a learnt talent or an instinctive skill?
Certainly I would say that my wheeling and dealing from a very young age is a natural talent and is very much a basic instinct of mine. Again, it really is important to be as good looking as I am and to be aware of those good looks.
Q- Decoratum has been quoted as your first love – what attracted you to specializing in 20th Century Design?
I’ve been interested in 20th Century design since I left Sotheby’s in the 1970s. I started dealing in Art Nuevo and Art Deco glass and moving over to 1950s-1990s design was a natural progression. I am also so delighted that 18th & 19th Century brown furniture has become so yesterday and that a great designer doesn’t have to wait until their dead to be appreciated anymore.
Q- You have predicted that the designers of the pink Pencil Bench; Boex, will be the next big thing. What other new designers do you see making it big in 2011/12?
My prediction that the designers of the Pink Pencil Bench, Boex, will be the next big thing is based on my hope that they will come out with some other great designs. You’ll never become a great designer if you’ve only got one design in your portfolio. They are very quirky and I can’t wait to see their next offering. Again, it has to be said that they would stand a far better chance of success if they had a combination of my looks and brains but, of course, one mustn’t be greedy. I have a list of five new designers that I believe are going to make it big in 2011/2012 but if I told your readers who they are then I would have no option other than to murder them all. Quite obviously, this would be time consuming and it is better to simply tell you that after I buy their current output and sign them up to the Decoratum stable then I’ll ‘spill the beans’.
Q- What are your favourite interior trends?
I’m so happy that ‘minimalism’ is nowhere near as popular as it used to be and that maximalism is rightfully coming back into vogue. It makes a home so cosy and lived-in rather than trying to pretend that we’re all living in a faffing art gallery.
Q- When Four Rooms first approached you to be in the team of dealers, what were your initial thoughts?
When I was first approached to be in the team of dealers in Four Rooms I initially said that whilst it was a great concept, the programme was probably not for me because they were probably looking for somebody with a chequered suit and a trilby with a plum in his mouth and an apple up his bum. I told them that I was opinionated and very much the antithesis of a middle-England antiques dealer and they probably wouldn’t want me. The production house, Talkback, confirmed that they were very much looking for a dealer with an edge and asked me down for a camera test, which seemed to go well. Once again, how lucky I was that my good looks played such an intuitive part in their decision to rope me in.
Q- Four Rooms has broken the mould and proved to be hugely successful with people of all ages, especially the younger generations. How important do you think it is to appeal to the younger audience; introducing them to not only the art of dealing, but to the history of interesting artifacts?
On a more serious note, I am so pleased that Four Rooms has broken the mould of antique programmes and it really has not surprised me, in the least, that it has proved to be hugely popular with viewers of all ages. What has really been the ‘big excitement’ to me is the very fact that it has drawn in so many younger people and, who knows, if they are as good looking as I am, it might turn them into the dealers of the future. Nothing is more important than the education of the young (apart from having a great sense of humour…..see above!) and, as the old proverb goes, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day…..teach a man to fish and you feed him for life. Let me paraphrase that by suggesting that by teaching the young how to deal and negotiate art will, I promise you, set them up for life.
Q- How competitive does it get between the other dealers? Who would you say is your biggest competition?
The level of competition between the dealers on Four Rooms is intense and especially when there is something that we all want. If I were a seller I would either go to the most good looking dealer, i.e. me or to any other dealer who may be wearing leather trousers. Certainly, for the next series, it is my intention to wear leather underpants and hopefully to get more people to come to visit me first.
Q- What was your most recent purchase and how much did it sell for?
My most recent purchase was a wonderful chrome table by a French architect whose name escapes me as I am writing this. I sold it for £12,950.
Q- What words of wisdom would you give for any aspiring dealers out there?
The best words of wisdom I can give you would be a paraphrase on that wonderful George Bernard Shaw quote, “Those that can, do; those that can’t, teach”. Might I suggest that those that can become great dealers of art and antiques, and those that can’t stay at Sotheby’s and Christies valuing.