Robert Bowman, Bowman Sculpture London

Robert Bowman, Bowman Sculpture LondonRobert Bowman, Bowman Sculpture LondonRobert Bowman, Bowman Sculpture London
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A conversation with
Tom NoonRobert Bowman

Robert Bowman, Tom Noon

September 4th, 2020
Founded by Robert Bowman in 1993, today Bowman Sculpture is synonymous with one name in particular: Rodin. Raised on a farm, starting out as a receptionist and rising through the ranks to become the Director of European Works of Art at Sotheby’s, to then leave at the height of his career to open his own gallery, Robert’s story is inspiring and evidence that with enough persistence, patience and passion an art world outsider can become a significant voice.
Initially there was fear and you know, I think you're losing your regular job, losing your regular income. I was in a very nice position.

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...some people find an area that they like and they love and that becomes their passion and they steep themselves into it. I've got collectors who know more about particular artist and I will ever know, I mean because it's their great passion, but on the other hand, they don't perhaps have expertise over 200 years and as an in general, I think that narrowing is admirable because they have that specialist knowledge, but to me that's limiting. I'm always still looking to look and appreciate something new.


So let's just go back if I may to the period in time when you were at Sotheby's and you've gone through valuations, you're being exposed on the job to all these works of art. You can see that sculpture as a discipline, it's somewhat maligned perhaps, maybe that's too strong a word but it's certainly not an area in and of itself kind of lumped in with as you said furniture or decorative items in one sense, but you then go on to become a junior cataloger, eventually becoming director of European works of art for Sotheby's, what was that transition like and what type of things have happened during that period in time, can you remember?


I think it's a combination of things. I think it's a combination obviously working for a commercial organization and I had a commercial eye and I think that's what allowed me to go on to be a dealer. I saw value in things and I think that it's that ability when something comes in that you can see what it's worth, who it might appeal to, its ability to market through the whole auction world, it's a complicated and sophisticated business. I think my value in the company was that I was able to see potential areas that could be expanded, for instance, one of the things I did completely off field was that I suddenly noticed that people were starting to collect wristwatches and so I went to the senior directors and I said, you know what I think we should be selling wristwatches and they said what are you talking about, Sotheby's can't sell wristwatches and I said, well, you know, I think that there is a new market coming up here, particularly for men who can't really buy themselves jewelry, but want to have something that is distinctive about them that perhaps portrays their sophistication or their wealth or whatever it may be. 

I said, I think this is going to become a big collectors market so they said what may you go ahead and do it. So I went to a few people who were dealing in the area put a sale together and we had a really successful sale of 19 watches from 1922 and 1950s and that has now developed from when I started those sales and they got so big that they then set it up an independent expert and specialist just to deal in that area and now wristwatches completely are much much greater important financially to the auction than ordinary clocks and watches and regular pocket watches. I think that's where Sotheby's perhaps saw my ability to develop a new market and that's what I did with sculpture. I took on different areas and promoted particular artists, artists who perhaps had been ignored and then reminded the world through the catalogs and through expertise and through advertising how important that particular artist is and then expanded the value of that artist. We then became known as the people that if wanted you to sell a work by that artist you should take it to Robert Bowman at Sotheby's and we then built that market and I think that's why my career path ascended relatively quickly, because I had that combination of passion for the art, but also the commercial eye.

Robert Bowman

Robert Bowman

Bowman Sculpture

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