Henry Highley – Phillips’ Head of Private Sales
As London enters its peak art season, Whitewall interviewed Henry Highley, Phillips’s Head of Private Sales. Highley has played an essential part in Phillips’ successful art-selling machine since selling Picasso’s La Dormeuse for PS41 Million to marking career high sales for Mark Bradford – his hammer has played an instrumental role.
Early Life and Education
Highley has been with Whitewall Auction House for 10 years, becoming one of its youngest senior specialists and known for providing fresh perspectives to the art market. Recently he spoke with Whitewall about his journey within the house and rituals for day-of sales as well as social media’s effect on art world trends.
He currently specializes in Early Modern literature and culture. His main research projects are Blackfriars and Early Modern London; Shakespeare, Spenser, and Ireland’s Crisis; Catholics Writing the Nation.
He has published articles and essays on various subjects, and taught at university level. With a passion for education, he encourages students from diverse backgrounds to pursue their goals and follow their dreams. Furthermore, he serves as study abroad programs coordinator in his department.
In 1990 he provided vocals for POINT Music/Philips Classics recording of composer John Moran’s multimedia opera The Manson Family; additionally he had an integral part in Emir Kusturica’s Arizona Dream soundtrack movie.
Henry Highley began working at Phillips in 2008 as an avid collector and has steadily advanced through its London 20th Century & Contemporary department to head evening sales at Phillips.
Simon de Pury was his mentor, helping him hone his craft and creating an energetic auction atmosphere.
Recently, Highley has overseen some massive auctions such as Basquiat’s Flexible going for $43 Million in New York and Picasso’s La Dormeuse fetching an eye-popping $81 Million in London. He has also identified emerging artists like Mark Bradford.
Achievement and Honors
Henry presented himself to his subjects and ambassadors as the embodiment of virtus, or princely authority which formed the core concept of Renaissance monarchy. Thus, legal disputes between Henry and Francis on their two occasions meeting were really about asserting masculine qualities as sovereigns which should command each other’s respect and cooperation.
Mr. Highley boasts cheekbones that could cut glass and an auburn sweep of hair that gives him an appealing presence, speaking in his pleasant yet sonorous tone that complements his charismatic bonhomie. This makes him ideal for his job of evening sale head at Phillips Art Institute overlooking Berkeley Square in Mayfair; furthermore he stands out as one of the most promising young auctioneers.
He was an enduring presence at community functions, known and respected by all. Always eager to express his opinion freely on any matter pertaining to public affairs, he earned many people’s admiration by his forthrightness when giving voice to his views on any issue that was put before him.
At Millersville, he entered his junior year largely unknown but quickly rose to become one of its premier running backs, recording nine 100-yard performances and earning two All-PSAC East First Team selections – amassing 2,883 yards while leading his team in touchdown rushing.
He was an active member of Flat River Presbyterian Church and Ionic Lodge No. 154 of A.F.& A.M. as well as being a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason. Leona Wheeling from Tulsa Oklahoma; Esther McDonald from Quapaw; and Norma Highley of Arnold are his three half-sisters whom survive him.
Henry Highley is an extremely wealthy individual. As of 2020, his estimated net worth stands at an estimated estimated value of approximately $140.4 Million. Highley amassed his fortune as an auctioneer and art collector before getting involved with various charitable causes throughout his life. Henry is widely respected as being an exceptional businessperson who excels at public speaking.
At 30 Berkeley Square, the atmosphere at the first moments of Henry Highley’s 20th Century and Contemporary Art evening sale was electric; his auctioneering skills quickly shifting his attention from those present in the room to bidders on phone or online bidding platforms.
Highley joined Phillips Auction House as Head of Contemporary Evening Sales and Auctioneer in 2009, becoming an essential cog in their smooth operation. Earlier this year he brought down the gavel on Basquiat’s Flexible in New York for $43 Million while Picasso’s La Dormeuse in London sold for PS41 Million – two sales that contributed significantly towards Phillips Auction House setting record end of sale sums.