When a newspaper called 'Leonard' arrived in my letter box I was intrigued. It was published by auction house Leonard Joel, a place I knew you could score a bargain at the weekly auction, buy a second-hand Hermes Birkin or admire antiques. All interesting (and even exciting on auction day), but Leonard Joel never came to mind when thinking about the latest inspiring design. After all, it is where my Uncle shops. So what was this visually appealing, aesthetically pleasing newspaper/design magazine hybrid doing in my letter box? I decided to contact John Albrecht, managing director, to find out a little about his role and why Leonard Joel seemed to be changing its image.
1. What path led you to your role as Managing Director of Leonard Joel? I was born in to the art and antiques industry. My family owned Kozminsky. But you don’t fall in love with an industry that you are born in to. You grow to love things or dislike things and I grew to love my industry – I could think of nothing else more fun to do than manage this mini-economy of beautiful things for interesting people! My path was a disjointed roller coaster with no grand plan other than that I kept finding my way back to what I loved and despite various setbacks I always remained positive and continued to dream.
2. How would you define Leonard? A magazine? Newspaper? Auction catalogue? Do you have a specific idea of what you want Leonard to be? We discovered that clients are tired of receiving the same old DLs from every auction house month in month out with the same old information on them that carries little to no value. We have collapsed the DL concept, supplanted it with “valuable and useful” content and as a subsidiary exercise still managed to provide clients with all the viewing and auction information they need. To us LEONARD is “our month” in a broadsheet!
3. I find Leonard very visually appealing; the aesthetic is bold and elegant. It is not a typical auction catalogue. What was your reasoning behind the design and layout of the publication? Our creative adviser Daniel Callan of Callan & Assoc. wanted it to be bold, atypical, content-driven and spacious. I trusted his judgment and love the result.
4. You state in your introduction that Leonard is one of many changes that are happening at Leonard Joel. What other changes will there be? Where do you predict Leonard Joel to be in 5 years? The fundamental changes that are well underway are a complete refurbishment of the business, both physically and culturally. Leonard Joel is about youthful expertise, new categories to collect and consider and ensuring that our clients experience both transparency and enjoyment, whether they are buying or selling through the firm.
5. Your article ‘the new collector’ expresses that “One could collect anything with a thematic logic and one was a collector”. Why do you think people like to collect, regardless of perceived value or importance by traditional collectors? I think collecting is deeply personal and primal. Collecting at its most basic level is about surrounding oneself with things that create a sense of physical security and comfort. I think over the centuries this desire to collect to create physical security became something more intellectual and sadly, sometimes (but not always) more pretentious. Collecting is now about securing a memory, stimulating the senses, celebrating a passion, decorating an interior, accumulating something other than capital or perhaps convincing oneself or others that one is more complex or sophisticated.
I believe Leonard Joel are being very savvy in their approach of making auction houses more accessible and sharing knowledge. I am assuming that to survive in a future of the mass produced, or even online auction sites, they need to attract a younger generation of people who enjoy the experience of going to a physical auction house (and enjoy collecting). They certainly have succeeded in catching my attention.