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“Be a social butterfly” advises art entrepreneur

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He couldn’t have asked for a better start – the sale of the first painting went for a world record price. “That meant we then got a lot of other paintings by that artist,” Thomas says.

Thomas used to buy paintings on behalf of his parents and was also active on the art social scene in Cornwall. “I would go to gallery openings and I knew some of the auction houses,” he says. “The main thing is to get out there and be at parties and other events. The first sale happened through word of mouth.”

As the founder of Barnes Thomas County Auctioneers, Thomas also had to turn his hand to auctioneering. He says it was “rather daunting being dumped in front of ten people” for the first time. However, he notes: “It’s quite interesting looking at everyone from that position – they all look absolutely terrified because of the myth that you’re going to end up buying something if you move or scratch your nose.”

Thomas focused on paintings to begin with but has recently launched a jewellery and silver department. He says: “We’re hoping to increase our turnover by at least 50 per cent from £500,000.”

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Angus Thirlwell
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