Photography by Mr Martien Mulder | Words by Mr Yale Breslin

After years spent developing a discerning eye for both established and emerging artistic talent for former employers Krug Champagne and international art auctioneers Phillips de Pury, 32-year-old Londoner Mr Alexander Gilkes co-founded online art platform Paddle8. Here, the New York-based entrepreneur invites us into his home office to talk about his former days as a naive art collector, his business manifesto and why one of his best purchases to date has four legs and goes by the name of Thatcher.

What is behind the name Paddle8?
We wanted a recognisable symbol associated with buying art. The number eight is a lucky number in many cultures - especially in China. The last thing we wanted was the word "art" in the title. I also just really liked the combination of words and numbers.
How did the concept come about?
It seemed as if the art world was opening up and democratising when it came to its own appeal and interest, but I wasn't entirely sure that great works were as accessible as they could be.
Did you see this as a problem?
Looking back on the things I've collected, I was definitely naive. It's interesting to look at how your collection is always a chart of your aesthetic and intellectual standards at different parts of your life. It was clear I didn't have access to insider opinions. I also saw that there was a lack of online portals that offered collectors access to great information and curated works. Then I met my [Paddle8] co-founder, Aditya Julka, who confirmed my notion and we ended up in business together.
How does Paddle8 work?
We are an online marketplace that takes selections from the inventories of some of the world's most legitimate sources of fine art - top galleries, art fairs, foundations and museums - and provides the tools and services for them to sell their works. We carefully curate the collector's community to ensure their works are getting into good hands.

the details


What do you want people to achieve when they visit the site?
We want people to engage with a great source of works in a simplified format. We want them to use the educational materials to make discoveries, but most importantly to be able to buy with great ease, which today is quite difficult. We ultimately want to become the acquisition system for the art world.
Who has Paddle8 worked with so far?
We've worked on curated exhibitions with people such as Marina Abramovi?, Robin Williams and Glenn O'Brien. We choose a range of individuals from different backgrounds but they all have legitimacy through their own artistic interests. Each curator chooses eight people who they feel have interesting perspectives on art and collecting it.
How do you decide on the theme of the exhibitions?
The curator has complete freedom. For instance, Robin Williams chose the topic of war. His father was a Vietnam vet, and as a comedian it's difficult to find the right outlet for something so serious. And he felt art was the perfect fit.
What was the reaction?
I think people didn't realise that he is a legitimate collector with a discerning opinion on art.
How do you approach buying art?
I can't deny that I'm always influenced by the opinions of insiders, but I do think it needs to be an emotional engagement. But first and foremost, there needs to be a subjective validation.
Why did you name your dog Thatcher?
She started her life as Fidel and then it became apparent that a male dictator's name was not apt for a small, female dog. We were keen to find a two-syllable name that paid tribute to the motherland, and so a boozy lunch with friends at The Fat Radish yielded "Thatcher": a remarkable lady who was prime minister for the first 12 years of my life. Coincidentally, my brother has a bar in London called Maggie's, which is an a 1980s-themed venue devoted to the Iron Lady.
When it comes to style, does your job influence what you wear?
Given the range of meetings that I take every day with investors, partners, galleries and collectors I need a style that has the versatility to adapt from casual to formal settings. That is why a jacket is often a staple item. The art world does uphold the most impeccable sartorial standards. Given that it is an industry driven by aesthetic rigor, I am always in awe of the garb sported at art fairs.
How would you describe your approach to fashion and style? What pieces do you find yourself going back to?
I have recently found my fit and like the more Edwardian cut of well-tailored clothes, with pencil trousers and fitted jackets. Materials and details are extremely important to me. Like many Brits my style is probably more classic, but I try to equip it with eclectic details.
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