Creative Director at Phillips Auction House
On the landing of Damien Whitmore’s East London house, a small and inauspicious frame holds his Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres medals which were presented to him for services to French Culture in 2008. It’s a subtle reminder of the cultural impact that Whitmore’s had during his career in the art industry, which began in 1985.
“I remember London in the 1980s was really boring and depressing and grim and suddenly in the ‘90s it came to life creatively.” As did Whitmore who moved from his position Head of Development at the Design Museum to Communications Director at the Tate Gallery. The next challenge that he undertook was turning the stuffy slightly antiquated V&A (Victoria & Albert museum) into the powerhouse cultural destination it is today, “The thing I’m most proud of is the transformation of the V&A. I remember when I arrived there thinking actually I can’t do this. I’d come from this absolutely premier league division Tate to this run down, old, complicated V&A. But we did it and we broke the back of it and we made the V&A into this amazing place.”
"The colours I like to wear I’ve learnt to choose over the years and now tend
to reflect my hair colour and skin tone."
Whitmore’s knack for refocusing the art-world zeitgeist has lead him to Phillips, the lesser known but resolutely high-brow auction house which is currently under his stewardship, “I’m working on a massive project, which is to make Phillips auction house the leading platform for buying and selling art and design.”
His everyday style has evolved over the years to incorporate a core palette, “the colours I like to wear I’ve learnt to choose over the years and now tend to reflect my hair colour and skin tone. I wear lots of navy blue, black and dark grey and very occasionally brown. I think I’ve now got a look and a colour range that I’m very clear about. I never wear yellow.”
A tried and tested formula for tackling difficult challenges extends to his meticulously planned wardrobe, “I tend to buy a few key pieces, so I’ll buy two jackets, two pairs of shoes, two trousers, five shirts and I will wear them constantly for 6 to 8 months and make interesting combinations with them. I never wear clothes from the previous year. They feel like ghosts to me. They’re my old energy so each year I refresh my look and my wardrobe.”
All photography by Samuel Bradley